A lifetime of playing tennis has kept Alice Magill in great health. And that lifetime? It’s 100 years long, as of July 24.
She celebrated the milestone at a party Sunday with family members and friends at the El Macero Country Club.
She was born Alice Frates in San Francisco on July 24, 1914, to a Portuguese family. She had two siblings — an older sister and a younger brother, who died at a young age from influenza.
Alice fell in love with tennis at an early age, starting the day her sister asked her to fill in for a friend playing doubles.
Alice was hooked, and she began practicing on her own at Golden Gate Park with a loaned racket. She entered the park’s tournament and lost a few times. At last, she won at age 11 and took home the grand prize — a tennis racket of her own.
Alice continued to play tennis until she retired at age 88.
“She used to play tennis and was afraid that the gals that she played tennis with would find out how old she was,” said her son, Tim Magill. “She was afraid that they wouldn’t want to play tennis with her.”
“Or that they’d go easy,” added her daughter, Linda Magill. “While she played tennis, nobody was to talk about it.”
Alice suffered a leg injury while going for an overhead smash and yet, she did not break a bone.
“One of the things that is medically interesting about her is that when they did bone density tests on her in her 70s and 80s, they couldn’t believe the hardness of her bones,” Tim said.
“To indicate her physical abilities, my mom can still do leg raises,” Linda said. “My granddaughter will get on the bed right next to her and pull her legs up, and right next to her is this one (Alice), pulling up her legs as well. It’s an absolute hoot to watch, because she can get in there and do it.”
Her secret? Linda said it’s all about exercise: “She was always on the go, always moving, so physical activity definitely makes a difference!”
After graduating from San Francisco State University, Alice taught physical education for six years at the junior high level for the same reason she played tennis: She loved sports.
“She used to roller-skate to her job in San Francisco, of all places,” Linda said.
Alice and Russel were high school sweethearts at Commerce High School.
“The first time that her father met my father, she brought him in and said, ‘Dad, this is the guy I’m going to marry,’ and (Russel) was wearing his highway patrol uniform with a gun,” Tim said.
They married on Aug. 1, 1939. World War II interrupted her career as a teacher, when she decided to stay at home while her husband was fighting in the war. Linda was born soon after the war ended, and Tim followed two years later.
Alice became part of a more traditional life and kept herself busy, Linda said. She excelled at sewing and taught the cooking and sewing components of 4-H. She was active in church, and is currently active with St. James Catholic Church in Davis.
The Magills moved to Sacramento when Russel became deputy commissioner of the California Highway Patrol. After graduating from high school, Linda considered going to UC Davis and visited Davis with her parents. Her parents fell in love with the town and built a house here, moving to Davis in October 1964.
For Alice, the tennis facilities in Davis were a gold mine, and she began playing tennis up to three times a week. Russel even bought her a sports car to drive to her matches — a 1974 dark blue Triumph TR6.
“You could always tell where she was because you would see the car parked there,” Tim said. “‘Oh yeah, Mom’s playing tennis.’”
After her driver’s license expired when she was 95, Alice passed a behind-the-wheel test and was still on the road until she was 97.
On April 10, 2014, Alice broke her foot in three places as well as her ankle when she took her walker down a short set of steps. Since then, she has completely healed.
When running tests to determine the cause of her injury, doctors remarked on her amazing state of health.
“The only time I can remember my mother having a sick day was when my brother was nice enough to bring home mumps from school,” Linda said.
Alice takes just one pill a day, has never smoked and virtually does not drink.
She is, however, a chocolate addict.
“Put a box of See’s Candies next to her and it disappears very quickly,” Linda said.
Although she’s physically in good shape, in the past two years it has become more difficult for Alice to recall both short-term happenings and past events. Linda calls it “five-minute memory.”
Her memory loss makes it difficult to engage in hobbies, but she always looks forward to visits from her great-granddaughter Laney. They have breakfast, play dress-up, stretch and do leg raises on the bed.
On her birthday, Alice’s three great-grandchildren came to wish her a happy birthday and they spent a quiet dinner together.
Her birthday gift was an assortment of chocolate-dipped treats: Oreos, pretzels, marshmallows on a stick, graham crackers, red vines and more.
Linda reports that there are only two chocolate-dipped Oreos left — the rest of the stash is all gone.