Aileen Cloonan’s heart stopped two years ago when she went into atrial fibrillation.
“Against my wishes, because I had said, ‘do not resuscitate,’ they put in a pacemaker,’” she said. “So, I’ve had two more years to reach my 100th birthday and be with my children.’
Cloonan turned 100 March 24 and had a party with family and friends two days later at her Fishers home.
“This birthday has been fabulous,” she said. “I’ve never had this much attention in my life.”
During the health scare two years ago, Cloonan had gone to the doctor because she wasn’t feeling well. She was given an EKG and taken to the hospital in an ambulance. When her heart stopped, she was given CPR.
She said she is exceedingly grateful that they ignored her DNR request.
Cloonan was a regular at PrimeLife Enrichment in Carmel for 25 years, mostly doing water aerobics. But she had to stop after her heart episode in April 2021.
“(PrimeLife’s former activities coordinator) Dee Timi posted my birthday on PrimeLife Enrichment’s Facebook page and I got about 100 cards,” Cloonan said. “The postman stopped to say he’s never delivered so many cards. I even got one from Norway. I heard from all these people that didn’t know me. I’m just overwhelmed. I didn’t realize having a 100th birthday was such a big deal.”
Cloonan said she even received a greeting from President Joe Biden thanking her for her military service.
About five years ago, Timi arranged for Cloonan to take an Indy Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II memorial. Timi accompanied her.
Cloonan, originally from the Cleveland area, went through training and served the U.S. Army during the latter stages of World War II.
She started with basic training in Fort Devens, Mass. Her first assignment was Nichols General Hospital in Louisville.
“The atomic bomb dropped four days after I went in,” she said. “So, the war was over 10 days later, and they were closing hospitals, so they closed Nichols after six months. Then I went to Camp Atterbury’s Wakeman General (in Edinburgh) for nine months. From there, the PTs that were left went to Letterman General in San Francisco and I stayed there for 18 months when I was discharged.”
She went to Stanford on the G.I. Bill, which provided benefits for veterans, and then got married.
“My husband, Ted, was recalled for the Korean War and we wound up in San Antonio,” Cloonan said.
From there, Ted, who died in 1979 from a heart attack, took a fellowship in psychology at Purdue University.
Cloonan stopped working when her two daughters were young. The couple moved to Indianapolis in 1968 and she lived the last 30 years in Fishers. When her youngest, Leslie, went to kindergarten, she started work at Winona Hospital in Indianapolis. She then worked for nursing homes.
Her oldest daughter, Holly, 68, lives in Indianapolis. Leslie, 64, lives in a suburb of Minneapolis.
Cloonan credits her longevity to staying active mentally and physically.
“I forgive and forget and mostly be grateful,” she said. “A minister started a share our lives group 15 to 20 years ago. We started with a gratitude list with 10 items you are grateful for. It changes your attitude.”
Cloonan does crossword puzzles and plays computer games. Cloonan used to play bridge and scrabble.
“I’m still in a book club, which we pretty much do (virtually),” Cloonan said.
An avid walker much of her life, Cloonan was once a member of an Indianapolis hiking club and played tennis along with her water aerobics.
“We are super lucky and very thankful,” Leslie said of her mother’s longevity.