101 years young: Anaheim woman credits Scrabble for keeping her mind sharp

When you’re a Scrabble champ like Desiree Engel, of Anaheim, words come easily. 

And when you’re 101 years young like Mrs. Engel – artfully playing board games, teaching sculpting and competing in tournaments – words don’t seem adequate. The Anaheim woman is a force of nature!

FOX 11 was invited to one of Engel’s birthday parties. This one was celebrated Tuesday at her weekly Scrabble Club 34 gathering in Huntington Beach. She arrived using a walker and with a tiara over her head, while doing a parade wave. From the second Desiree walked in, the room exploded in applause. 

The love and admiration for the mom of three were apparent to all.

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There was a birthday cake. There were speeches and gifts. But honestly, Desiree was the one extending gifts, the gift of wisdom. As a young person, she escaped the Nazis in Europe, taking refuge in America. Eventually, she settled in Southern California where she raised her family. 

Along the way, she earned several college degrees.

Everyone wanted to know her secret to a long, fulfilling life. She urged us all to "make lemonade out of lemons."  

And the best way to keep your mind razor-sharp? 

"Scrabble," she said.

I asked her son Eric what he most admired about his mother. 

His answer? 

"Her adaptability. She takes anything thrown at her and finds a way to make it work for her," Eric said.  

I personally was charmed by Desiree Engel and will remember her for a long time. Even when she was soft-spoken, her steely determination shined through. 

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