At 100 years old, Willow Glen resident Juaneva Martin has had her fair share of experiences, but there are a few that she recalls as if they happened just yesterday.
World War II shapes many of her memories, as her husband, Melvin, was a Navy submariner stationed at Pearl Harbor. And, as she says, the war left no country untouched.
The couple had slept in on that red-letter Sunday that the harbor was bombed.
“We had heard bombs but didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I looked out and could see the rising sun glint on the wing of the plane. I knew who it was.”
Within five minutes Melvin had jumped up, put on his uniform and rushed out the door. He didn’t even have time to kiss her good-bye, she said.
She and Melvin had married when Juaneva was 17, with her mother’s blessing, on the stage of southern California’s Fox Theater with another service couple.
Juaneva spent many years on the move and taking care of her two girls alone when her husband was shipped out.
“That was the only way you could be with your husband,” she said. “Being a Navy wife isn’t easy.”
Juaneva came to the Bay Area after the war was over, staying with family until enough money had been saved to make a down payment on a home in Willow Glen. The house was $4,500.
For 15 years, she, Melvin and their daughters Jenene and Shirleen, lived in the home. They then built their own along the creek in 1958, where she still lives.
“I helped put the roof on; I was a little younger then,” she said laughing. “I didn’t think I could do it. My husband was thinking nothing was impossible.”
Juaneva, who celebrated her birthday Dec. 3, has seen the landscape of Willow Glen and San Jose change in dramatic fashion over the years.
She recalls walking down to Lawrence’s Drug Store, Willow Pharmacy and Bermann’s, a store that had clothes for everyone, she said.
“It used to be so beautiful with all the trees,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned they’ve ruined it. Too much cement and not enough trees. The area has boomed so much.”
She’s not opposed to all things new, however, welcoming years of social progress and even some new television shows. Her favorites are “Jeopardy,” “NCIS” and “Law and Order SVU.”
Chalking up her longevity to genetics, eating a balanced diet, no smoking, no drinking and rarely swearing, Juaneva does her own housework, some crosswords and a little gardening when the weather is favorable.
“It’s been quite a life,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of experiences.”
The mother of two, grandma of five, great-grandma of six and great-great-grandma of one, with another on the way, celebrated her birthday with her family at Three Flames restaurant.