‘Another chapter in gracious living’

Woman celebrates centennial with family, memories

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
A few interesting items made the local paper in March 1922.
The City of Lebanon authorized a bridge to be built over the Grove Street canal.
Its health officer announced that improved conditions of a diptheria epidemic would soon lift a city quarantine.
A new five-passenger car went on the market for $348.
And Lyola Rae was born to Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Moore.

FRIENDS DROP IN to wish the centenarian a happy birthday.

On March 21, her 100th birthday, Lyola Rae sat at the head of a table surrounded by friends and family. From a custom-made “Lyola’s Diner” menu, everyone ordered brunch, served by grandson Kurt Mechals and his husband, Phil Kasavage.
Lyola took bites between conversations, her silver-glitter ballerina flats lying covertly beside her feet. If anyone had belched during that moment, her youngest son, Tom Mechals, said he wouldn’t have been surprised if she responded in her usual way: “Another chapter in gracious living.”
Although born in Lebanon, Lyola moved to Westport, Oregon, as a child when her father took a job at a sawmill in the tiny unincorporated community. At 17, she married Jim Mechals, but the pair – along with their first-born son, Jim Jr. – moved to Lebanon in 1942 when Jim Sr. was drafted into the Navy. He served in Guam during World War II, returning in 1945.

LYOLA SITS for a photo with her two sons and their wives.

To date, this union has produced two sons, four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and a brand-new great-great-granddaughter, Oaklyn Lyola, who was born April 3. The Mechals were married 77 years before Jim passed away in 2016.
Jim Jr. credits his mother as the glue that kept everyone together.
“I have a great family, I’ll tell you that,” Lyola said. “It’s a great family, and I’m proud of all of them.”
The centenarian enjoys painting, decorating and playing piano, as well as going barefoot as often as she can. Her grandson, Cory Mechals, described her as free-spirited, artistic, strong-willed and kind, with mannerisms similar to Lucille Ball’s iconic television character, Lucy Ricardo. Kasavage called her bright in attitude, outlook and IQ, saying, “She’s like a sunshine sitting next to you.”
The comparison is appropriate, as Lyola sees the bright side of every situation, laughing off what would frustrate most people, Kurt added, calling her a positive example to her family.
“Her laugh is infectious, her smile is infectious,” he said. “She’s just a naturally good person that people just want to be around.”
“She was the most fun aunt anybody could have,” raved Barbara Hale, Lyola’s niece. “I always looked forward to seeing her.”
Hale recalled being drawn as a child to a dimple on Lyola’s chin, dropping a small finger on it at every opportunity.

Barbara Hale, left, waits her turn to give her aunt some attention.

“I just loved it,” she said. “My finger fit perfect in there.”
Another time, she and her aunt were brushing their teeth together when Lyola began singing opera.
“I was laughing so hard I was lying on the floor,” Hale said.
“We woke Jim up,” Lyola confessed.
Of everything she’s seen in her lifetime, one memory sticks with her the most: Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. Her husband had gone to play his weekly basketball game, and she was reading about the Japanese conferring with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. The article indicated some problems, but peace talks were, ultimately, going well.
Then a special announcement interrupted a program on the radio. Lyola’s ears perked up. She could tell that the broadcaster was shaken.
The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
“We were supposed to be at peace, and they came in and they had bombed us,” she said. “I’m still mad about that.”
The 9/11 attacks were the second-most memorable event, she said.
“Our world will never be the same,” Lyola told her husband that September day in 2001.
As for Lebanon, she thinks the city remained pretty much the same “until the Samaritan [Health Services] people came.”
“We don’t want our little town to change,” she recalled hearing others lament. “We want it to stay just like it is.”
But Lyola believed the town would die if it didn’t grow. And grow, it did. She essentially credits Samaritan with that growth and change over the past many decades.

Lyola pretends to partake of a few pleasures while dining with family. Photo courtesy of Kurt Mechals

When asked about the secret to a long life, Lyola at first claimed there wasn’t one.
“Actually, I’m just as surprised as anybody else,” she said.
But when pressed, she released a few clues.
“Well, I think having a good sense of humor sure doesn’t hurt,” she said. “But you also have to like people. You have to like people and enjoy people and take them as they are, because in a long lifetime you meet a lot of different people.”