Sensational Seniors – September 2016

There have been many positive aspects of our move to Jacksonville some four years ago. For a village of 2,800 people, it offers a host of outstanding restaurants and watering holes, it is a walkable town with miles of trails and there is a spirit of volunteerism that surpasses anything I’ve ever experienced in the other communities I’ve lived. Another positive aspect I’ve come to appreciate is the number of fellow Jacksonville “senior citizen-” type folks I’ve met who still retain a spirit for living and giving. In this article I would like to highlight one such person, my friend, Mira Wingfield, who has had an amazing life.

Mira, well-known in Jacksonville as the “Dog Treat Lady” or the “Gardening Lady,” was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1927. Her father, who had a mechanical engineering degree from the famed Heidelberg University, became an expert at setting-up fleet garages, especially for England, which was to prove fortuitous when WW II broke out. In 1937, her father traveled to Egypt for work, taking Mira’s brother with him. A year later Mira’s mother and Mira joined them, first in Egypt and then on to Palestine, where they were when the war broke out. Romania was not a safe place to be and, after the war, the Russians moved in, so the family never considered returning to their homeland.

Mira’s young life was filled with travel, many different schools and learning Romanian, German, French, Hebrew and English. Today, her English, albeit of the British variety, is flawless…and she is still conversant in all the other languages except Hebrew. Upon entering the Hebrew school in Palestine, her given name, Mira, was changed to Miriam, a more appropriate Hebrew name. She went by Miriam until 1955. She remembers her young teenage years as ones of excitement and wonder and to this day looks fondly upon them.

At eighteen Mira married an American civilian engineer who worked for the U.S. Army. They had met through mutual friends in Palestine, married and moved to his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. She was honored as the first war bride in Phoenix and became quite a celebrity with a newspaper-sponsored shopping trip and an intriguing article about her transition to America. Mira was to live in Phoenix for 60 years, raising one son and two daughters. After a divorce from her first husband, she was a single mother for some five years, making her way doing secretarial work and being a merchandising agent for JC Penny.

In 1955 Mira remarried, hence her Wingfield name. Her husband, a well-known graphic artist, provided the financial security for Mira to return to being a stay-at-home mother and to become in her words, “a professional volunteer.” While active in American Red Cross, UNICEF, and the St. Joseph Hospital Auxiliary, her major volunteer work was with the Goodwill Auxiliary of Phoenix. Mira and several other ladies were responsible for two antique shows a year, held at the Phoenix Fairgrounds, bringing in thousands of people and earning $150,000-$200,000 from each show. The success of these shows became an inspired model for Goodwill organizations throughout the United States.

While living in Phoenix, she developed her passion for gardening, especially roses, a passion she carried to her new home in Jacksonville. Mira was widowed in 1995 but remained in Phoenix until 2002 when, at the urging of her daughter who lives in the Applegate, she moved to Jacksonville. Mira relates, “I thank my daughter for encouraging this move every chance I get.” She goes on to say that “Living in Jacksonville is absolute heaven. If I still lived in Phoenix, I would not have the style of life I have here. I would not attempt to drive in Phoenix today but here two lane roads are the standard not the exception, so driving is easy.”

Since moving to Jacksonville, Mira says, “I have downsized my volunteering,” but she still finds time for the Jacksonville Garden Club, works frequently at the Senior Thrift Shop, is a Jacksonville Boosters member, is a Master Gardener and is a member of the Southern Oregon Antique and Collectible Society. On spring and summer mornings, Mira can be found in her front or back flower gardens tending to hundreds of potted flowers, shrubs, plants and trees. She has 65 pots just for her roses. Having potted plants requires daily watering, so she is kept very busy during this hot weather. As a result, she has not been able to participate as usual in her Tai Chi workouts, something she has been doing twice a week for fourteen years. When talking about Tai Chi her face lights up! “I find Tai Chi indispensable for it teaches balance and control. I have not fallen since starting Tai Chi.”

For those who live on Shafer Lane or anyone who walks their dog along Shafer Lane, Ms. Wingfield is known as the “Dog Treat Lady” for throughout the year she has both water and dog treats next to the sidewalk of her front yard for her “doggie friends.” She says, “I know the names of all the dogs who come by, but not all the owners names, even though they have given them to me.” She goes on to say that the dog treat business is “breaking the bank because I have new customers all the time.”

Reflecting on aging, Mira proposes, “When you get older, you have a lot of time on your hands. You have a choice of becoming lethargic, doing nothing and being bored or you can keep active doing things you like and engaging people and, yes, dogs. I have chosen to be active as long as I can.” Congratulations, Mira, on a life well-lived.