105-Year-Old SJSU Alumna Shares Secrets to Longevity

by | Aug 16, 2022 | Community Engagement

Betty Ann Chandler, ’39 Education Credential, shares her life motto from her downtown San José home. Photo by Julia Halprin Jackson.

This week, retired teacher and longtime businesswoman Betty Ann Chandler, ’39 Education Credential, will celebrate her 105th birthday. She’ll mark the occasion on the first day of San José State University’s fall semester, making her one of the oldest known living Spartans. The lifelong San Josean plans to celebrate with a drive-by birthday party surrounded by family and friends.

I’m so excited to wish happy birthday to the inimitable Betty Ann, a fixture in downtown San José, whose commitment to positivity serves as a reminder to us all,” said Interim President Steve Perez, who sent the alumna a care package in honor of her special day. 

Betty Ann Chandler

Betty Ann Chandler modeled for the San José Women’s Club for decades, according to her daughter Athene Mantle. Photo courtesy of Betty Ann Chandler.

Chandler was born on August 17, 1917, in her grandfather Z. O. Field’s house on South 14th Street. At age 16, Chandler became the bookkeeper in her family’s business, Desimone’s Bicycles and Toy Shop on Second Street. Since opening in 1896, Desimone’s grew to become the third-largest bicycle store in Northern California, according to Chandler’s son Bruce.

She and her high school sweetheart Elliott attended SJSU when it was still San José State College, where she studied elementary education and graduated on the cusp of World War II. 

More than 80 years later, Chandler remembers what it felt like to stroll with Elliott under the canopy of trees near San José State’s iconic Tower Hall. Active in Greek life, Chandler was an avid dancer and singer, and often traveled to Fresno to cheer on the Spartan football team. 

“My saying is ‘I am healthy, vital and strong, and I radiate dynamic energy,’” Chandler said from her home downtown, where her daughter Athene Mantle lives with her. “I believe that you can always choose to be positive. You can choose to be happy, or you can choose to be sad; why not choose to be happy?”

She and Elliott married following graduation, and she taught first grade in Campbell before becoming a mother. The Chandlers took over management of the bicycle store and opened a second location in Santa Clara in the 1960s while raising their five children. They participated in Watsonville’s annual Fourth of July parade, with Betty Ann atop a three-seater bike. When Highway 280 was built in the 1970s, it was opened first to bicycles — and the Chandlers took advantage of the open road.

Betty Ann Chandler (seated, in front) with her family on a two-seater bicycle. Photo courtesy of the Chandler family.

Chandler was also active in the San José Women’s Club and attended social events, modeled in fashion shows and — as always — danced with friends and family. When asked about her secrets to longevity, she reinforced the importance of moving, smiling and staying engaged in the world around her.

“I walk every day,” she said. “I don’t sit still.”

Among her other talents are knitting, basket weaving, drawing, making cards and staying connected to her children, nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. She regularly attends online art classes taught by her granddaughter and can still recite every word to her favorite tongue twister, “Peter Piper.”

“If you give a smile, you get a smile,” Chandler said. “Give a happy dance and the people around you will be happy too.”