Ocean swim part of an active life

“That really was nice,” said Bertha Sheets as her son, Stanley Sheets, led her to the shower at Kamaole Beach I Beach Park on Thursday morning following her morning swim.

Bertha Sheets is very recognizable to morning regulars at the Kihei shoreline. She has been coming down to the beach for her swim for 41 years.

The routine is part of a lifestyle that has contributed to a long life. Sheets will celebrate her 102nd birthday on Tuesday.

“She moved here in 1972,” her son said. “The ocean is the best thing in the world. It keeps you moving and feeling good.”

Sheets was driving herself to the beach two years ago, but now her son drives her. Her driver’s license is good until her birthday.

“If I don’t come here for my morning swim, I don’t feel right,” she said after showering and inserting her hearing aid. When asked how she feels, she said: “I feel as stiff as a board. The water was just lovely today.”

As stiff as she feels, she keeps moving. Her son holds her hand as she enters and exits the water. He also assists her friend, 95-year-old Celia Boden.

On Thursday morning the trio was treated to a visit by a manta ray.

People on the beach were at first alarmed when they saw the fins above the surface of the water about 10 feet from the shoreline. The manta ray swam between the swimmers and out of sight.

Once in the deeper water, the three swam out to the orange buoy and then back to shore.

“I’ve been swimming since I was 10 years old,” said Sheets, a Berlin native. “I like to swim.”

Her other exercise includes walking to and from her room at the Kalama Heights Retirement Residence on Kanani Road in Kihei.

When asked why she has lived so long, Sheets said, “Don’t ask me. The things they recommend, I did all of those things already; eating moderately, watching my weight . . . that’s the way I’ve always lived.”

“They’re all inspired by her,” Stanley Sheets said of the regular swimmers at Kamaole I. One of those regulars is Carol Minnich, who alerted The Maui News to Sheets’ approaching birthday. Another admirer is Margie Lang, who said Sheets comes down to the beach for her swim “almost every day.”

Sheets moved to the United States when she was 17 years old and went to Hollywood Hills High School. In addition to marrying Alfred Sheets and raising a family, she worked as a high school German and math teacher. She and Alfred built a home in Kihei with the help of their son in 1975.

Stanley Sheets, 70, also is retired and enjoying life on the Valley Isle.

In addition to keeping her body moving, Sheets keeps her mind active by playing cards, taking care of the library at Kalama Heights and helping with the retirement home’s bingo games.

“She’s been active all her life,” her son said.

She said she doesn’t want any fuss, but there’ll be a “little celebration at Kalama Heights” on her birthday. And of course, her son says he’ll take her to Kamaole I for her morning swim.

“This is what keeps you alive,” he said.

* Rich Van Scoy can be reached richv@mauinews.com.