Irene Richmond isn’t planning on giving up her designated parking place at Marion Senior Center any time soon.
About seven weeks shy of her 100th birthday, Richmond just renewed her driver’s license for four years.
However, she won’t be celebrating by taking a long cruise in her 1992 Oldmobile 88; Richmond never has been fond of driving.
“I had to learn it on my own, and I’ve never liked it to this day,” Richmond said. “It’s just an evil necessity I have to do.”
Her father wouldn’t let her drive in high school, she said. She decided to learn when her son reached school age.
“Jimmy was born when I was 20, so about 26,” she said. “When you don’t know anything and you have to learn it all on your own, it isn’t fun.”
The toughest part of learning, she said, was “having people criticize me instead of tell me what to do.”
She also had a youthful skeptic in Jimmy.
“I had a son who knew his dad could drive good, and he wasn’t so sure about mom,” she said. “He didn’t say much; he just put up with me.”
Three quarters of a century later, Richmond’s driving record is spotless — no tickets, no accidents.
That could have changed three weeks ago if Richmond hadn’t reacted quickly to avoid a collision.
“I had another lady with me and I was going home, and there was a gal at the courthouse with a red car who almost backed into me,” she said. “When that car backed out, I made some pretty fast decisions.”
There was no oncoming traffic, she said, so she was able to swerve into the other lane.
“That really shook me that day,” she said. “The lady that was with me said, ‘Irene, you’re just a darned good driver.’”
She drives a blue 1992 Oldsmobile 88 in town just during daylight hours, and doesn’t intend to upgrade to a newer model. General Motors quit making Oldsmobiles in 2004, and this one runs fine, she said.
A pet peeve she has are drivers who roll through stop signs when turning onto Main St.
“Why can’t people stop on the side streets?” she said. “They don’t stop. I’ve almost been sideswiped twice that way.”
Richmond chose to stop driving at night when the lights made it hard to see, and she knows that someday she’ll have to stop altogether.
“I’m just going to stay within what I know I can do for sure,” she said. “When I know I shouldn’t drive anymore, I’ll quit on my own.”