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Your Financial Life
By Don Mitchell / Sep 22, 2016

Life at 100: Former Transamerica Employee Reaches Milestone Birthday

odenbday_image1 Raymond Oden has a simple philosophy for living a long life.

“I try to live right and do what’s right and stay out of trouble,” the easy-going Oden told Transamerica. “I don’t have any secret.”

Oden, who celebrated his 100th birthday with a large gathering of family and friends in Maplesville, Alabama, on August 19, believes he’s the first person in his family to reach the milestone age.

“I’m the only one that I know about,” he said in his friendly southern drawl. “My grandfather Oden lived to be 92, and I had an aunt that lived to be 99. She was about the oldest person that I knew of.”

Oden also attributes his longevity to his wonderful family.

He married his wife Gladys on December 21, 1935, and the couple spent 74 happy years together before she passed in 2009.

“Not many people stay together that long,” Oden said. “I miss her terribly.”

Together, the couple had seven children and nine grandchildren.

“Don’t ask me how many great grandchildren,” he quipped (there are 18). “There are too many to count, but I have four great-great granddaughters and one great-great grandson. They are cute as can be, and they really tug at your heart.”

His voice beams with pride when he talks about his family.

“I enjoy being with my children when we all get together,” Oden said. “I’m so proud of them. I’m just sorry my wife couldn’t be with us too.”

The former debit agent who worked for Commonwealth Life Insurance Company (now Transamerica) for 29 years doesn’t let his age slow him.

“I cook my own breakfast every morning, do my own laundry, make beds and all,” he said. “I pretty well stay busy all the time. If I’m not busy, I should be.”

Oden started working in the insurance business in Louisville, Kentucky in 1951. Two years later, Commonwealth moved him to the Birmingham office where he supervised seven agents.

“I kept that job until I got tired of that and went back to being a debit agent,” he said, explaining he enjoyed that line of work.

“As a debit agent, you collect and service life insurance and sell life insurance, too. You have to be licensed,” he said. “You have to keep an account of all the money that’s turned in. I didn’t know much about accounting, but I got to be pretty good about it before it was all over.”

Oden was a perennial top seller and, as a reward for being in the leader’s club, he and Gladys visited Fort Lauderdale, North Carolina, Virginia Beach, and Chicago.

“We never had been to a big city,” he said. “My wife and I made trips that we never would have made at all if it hadn’t been for (the leader’s club).”

Oden didn’t have a magic formula for his success.

“There wasn’t any put on,” he said. “You just had to be truthful and persuade the people they needed what you were selling. It was work. For an old country boy, I did pretty well.”

After he retired, Oden gardened, hunted quail and enjoyed training his bird-hunting dogs.

Unfortunately, he can’t do those things any longer, but he’s proud to say he still doesn’t walk with a cane.

He also drives himself anywhere he wishes including daily trips to the Maplesville Senior Club for lunch and weekly visits to church.

“I enjoy going to church,” he said, noting members of his congregation recently presented him a plaque honoring his 75-plus years of service as a deacon.

“I’m proud of that,” Oden said. “I grew up in the church, and I believe what they teach. I read my Bible every day.”

He also grew up seeing so much change in the world.

“I remember the first automobile I saw,” he said. “A little model-T Ford. That was in the 1920s when I was a little tad.”

He has also been impressed by airplanes and flying, but not so much by the World Wide Web.

“I don’t have Internet,” he said. “I’m busy enough with what I’ve got.”

Asked what he thought about his birthday celebration, Oden said, “It means a great deal to me. I’ve just got a lot of people that I love and that love me … I’ve had a good life.”


This story was brought to us by Debra Dean in Cedar Rapids. Dean, who leads a team of business analysts in Reinsurance Operations, is Oden’s great niece. She had the pleasure of attending her uncle’s 100th birthday celebration in Maplesville. 

“Uncle Raymond is an amazing man,” she said. “He is a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, and so very much more. I have always admired him for his noble character traits. He just makes me smile.”