tampabay.com

Good genes + puzzles = long life

By Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007


Rose Catherine Gorga celebrated her 105th birthday on Oct. 19 at the Loving Care Assisted Living Facility in Largo with a party hosted by family and friends.

Ms. Gorga was born in Paterson, N.J. on Oct. 18, 1902 to Italian immigrants Blaze and Antonia Gorga. Completing the family was a brother, Charles Crawford Gorga, and a sister, Susan Gorga, who died at age 14.

Ms. Gorga started her working career in St. Anthony's Guild, a Catholic charity organization. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1939, where she worked as a secretary for the National Park Service at the Department of the Interior.

During World War II she served her country in the Women's Army Corps from 1944 to 1945 as a staff sergeant. She was a medical assistant and received the World War II Victory Medal.

After an honorable discharge, Ms. Gorga returned to her position in the National Park Service until her retirement in 1964, when she relocated to Clearwater.

Ms. Gorga has been known as a wonderful seamstress and enjoyed tatting and knitting.

She took up residence at Loving Care ALF in 2004 and attributes her longevity to good genes and solving crossword puzzles.

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Longevity is in Karla Harrison's genes.

Her father, Christian Heurick, lived to be 102 and was 65 years old when Mrs. Harrison was born. The owner of a large brewery in Washington, D.C., Mr. Heurick won a contest at age 95 for being that city's oldest father. When others asked his secret to a long life, Mrs. Harrison's father suggested they live in moderation and drink his beer.

Two parties were held for Mrs. Harrison's 100th birthday on Oct. 20, the first from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Carlouel Yacht Club and a second later that day at the Clearwater Yacht Club, attended by all her extended family.

Karla (Heurich) Harrison was born on Oct. 20, 1907, in Washington, D.C., the last of Amelia and Christian Heurick's four children. As a youngster, Mrs. Harrison developed a gift for tennis, earning many awards while a student at Western High School and became Washington D.C.'s City Tennis Champion in 1924.

She was a 1928 graduate of Connecticut College, New London, Conn., and received a master's degree in Zoology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she would eventually give $1-million to endow a chair for the environment.

Fresh out of school and artistically talented, Mrs. Harrison was hired by the Smithsonian Institute as a scientific illustrator.

"Mother's a member of the National Audubon Society and has always had an interest in nature," said daughter Jan Evans. "She'd take us on nature walks. She'd point out animals and trees, and taught us how to identify plants."

On Dec. 26, 1931, she wed West Point graduate Charles Bowler King at her family home in Washington, D.C. They were soon stationed in Hawaii and five years later were reassigned to Plattsburgh, N.Y.

During that time, they welcomed a daughter, Jan Alison King Evans of Washington D.C., and Middleburg, Pa.; and two sons, Charles Bowler King, Jr. of Bethesda, Md., and Donald Christian Heurick King of Asheville, N.C. and Las Vegas.

Charles King Sr. died in the Allied invasion at Normandy in 1944.

On Jan. 15, 1946, she married Brigadier General Eugene L. Harrison at Walter Reed Chapel in Washington, D.C. The couple was stationed in Kyoto, Japan, from 1948 to 1950. While there, Mrs. Harrison learned the language, and a great deal about the country and its people. It sparked an interest in Ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arrangement. Mrs. Harrison would later help create an International Garden Club on the west coast of Florida, featuring the art form.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison retired in 1954 to a home on Clearwater Beach, where Mrs. Harrison still resides. The couple were civically active and golfed regularly at the Clearwater Country Club and Belleview Biltmore. Mr. Harrison was Commodore of Carlouel Yacht Club and a former Chairman of the Board at Morton Plant Hospital. He died in 1981.

Mrs. Harrison never cared for swimming, but is passionate about living on Clearwater Beach. She has a great view of the bay on one side of her home and the beach on the other. She still plays bridge and enjoys watching animal programs and the golf and tennis channels.

She attributes her long life to good, clean living, regular exercise, proper nutrition, and drinks half a glass of red wine daily.

At her birthday party last month, while preparing to blow out the candles on her cake, Mrs. Harrison's grandson reminded her to make a wish.

"I've got one," she smiled. "That I have another hundred years."