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It's a 'wonderful life' Determined 95-year-old has seen it, done it all


Published:   |   Updated: March 17, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Everybody has a life story, and for 95-year-old Martha "Marty" Dowswell, it is an incredible one.

Author, artist, mother and world-traveler all accurately describe Dowswell, a resident at Fairway Pines Assisted Living at Sun 'n Lake in Sebring.

"It has been a glorious life," said Dowswell, who has penned several books to share with her family and friends, including four stories depicting her own adventures - memories from a dozen cruises, posing for photos with Chinese soldiers at the Winter Palace in Beijing in 1989 and riding a Harley Davidson for the first time nine years ago.

"I just loved it," the petite, silver-haired woman said, smiling at the memory of the motorcycle ride that occurred when a tour bus she was on pulled into a rest stop near a group of bikers on their way to Daytona Beach Bike Week. When one of the young men offered her a ride, she was thrilled. "We went zooming down the highway!"

Her stories span a life that began in Michigan during the Great Depression and has taken Dowswell through a "Legacy of Laughter and Tears," the title of her 2003 memoir.

Widowed twice, Dowswell reminisced about the five children and 45 years she shared with her first husband, Fritz Mygatt, before his death in 1985 at the age of 72.

She married George Dowswell two years later and moved with him to Sebring in 2004.

The couple enjoyed 25 years together before he died of lung cancer on December 20, 2011.

But the loss that is most prevalent in Dowswell mind is that of her daughter, who died this past November.

"I'm still grieving," she said, somberly. "A person shouldn't outlive their children. I've outlived two."

Dowswell finds solace in her other three children who all live in Florida.

"My son, Steven Mygatt, lives just around the corner and comes often," she said. "He is a wonderful young man."

Her eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandkids are also a source of joy and inspiration. She uses some of their names for the whimsical characters in her children's books.

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For the past eight years, Dowswell has been living at Fairway Pines, where she can often be found whistling for an audience in the sunroom, enjoying the butterfly garden or conversing with friends in the activities room.

With a natural talent for art, Dowswell has covered the walls of her comfortable one-bedroom apartment with paintings of animals done on driftwood and delicate flowers painted on china plates.

Dowswell was also a quilter for 45 years but had to give up sewing after she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. As the retinal degenerative disease progressively robbed Dowswell of her eyesight, her determination to be independent only grew stronger.

Now, she is able to write her books, order from daily menus at her assisted living facility and correspond with friends with the help of a large magnifying machine. Four times a week she plays cards with friends by using a large-print deck. An oversized phone and television remote were specially ordered with lighted dials and raised numbers to make it easier for her to use them.

"If you have such a deep desire to do something, you can do it," Dowswell said.

So it was no surprise when she decided to celebrate her 95th birthday Feb. 22 in style with a luncheon at Sun 'n Lake Country Club. Twenty-five guests attended, with some family members coming from as far away as Boston.

And this dynamo is not about to slow down. On Thursday, Dowswell will embark on a cruise to Cozumel with family members.

When asked about her longevity, Dowswell said she walks every day, exercises, attends church services every week at Church of the Redeemer in Avon Park and loves to eat desserts, especially chocolate.

"I've had a wonderful life," she said. "I wish I could be reborn and do it all over again."

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