Tom Pfeifer's Blog

Initial Thoughts: Good Habits Lead to Death

(Editor's note: Back when Tom Pfeifer was required to read five-plus newspapers a day for his day job, for amusement he compiled news reports from which he could thread a theme and emailed his Initial Thoughts to family and friends. While he works on other projects, he is regurgitating some of them here. We hope you enjoy.)

Initial Thoughts
© 2007 Tom Pfeifer
Current as of April 26, 2003

“Long-term study links body fat to cancer.”

“Diet, Exercise Shown to Control Hypertension.”

“Study Links Fast Food, TV to Obesity in Whites.”

“Vegetable diet found to lower cholesterol.”

Headlines such as these are in America’s

newspapers nearly every day. Yet some people

just don’t get the message.

Since the beginning of 2002, nearly 48% of

the supercentenarians—those over 110 years

old—have died. That’s a higher death rate

than any other age group and is grave cause

for concern.

Mary Dorothy Christian was the last to go,

passing into the great beyond just two months shy of her 114th birthday. She craved Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hostess Twinkies, had been divorced since 1922, and lived alone until she was 102. No wonder she died.

Living in San Pablo, California, probably didn’t help. It’s too laid back; slows down the metabolism.

New York City, on the other hand and on the other coast, boasts more than just great nightlife. It enjoys the highest life expectancy in the United States. Dodging terrorists and taxis apparently keeps your heart pumping. And although statistically you are more likely to die of a terrorist attack or crossing the street in New York than anywhere else, those who survive are much better off.

(Actually, while New York suffered the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in 2001, deaths per capita were highest in the Floridian meccas of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Tampa, places former New York drivers move to when they’re too old to maneuver Manhattan streets.)

Like Ms. Christian, John McMorran lived a wild and wooly life until he died earlier this year at the tender age of 113 years and 250 days. McMorran had several girlfriends at his nursing home, chewed tobacco, and smoked cigarettes and a pipe until he was 97, and drank coffee up until the last drop. He died in Lakeland, Florida, but was not hit by a car.

Also of noted passing recently was diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins, whose diet of meat, eggs, and cheeses horrified the medical community in the early 1970s. He lived to see a half-dozen medical studies seemingly vindicate his work, then slipped on some ice, into a coma, and died. He died in Manhattan at age 72, giving him the ironic footnote of possibly helping to lower New York’s life expectancy stats for 2003.

We still do not know the secret of longevity, Dr. Stephen Coles, a UCLA researcher and cofounder of the Gerontology Research Group, noted. Seemingly harmful substances can have no effect, and the supposedly benign can kills us.

Just ask Pedro and Margarita Giron of Santa Maria, California, how dangerous vegetables can be for one’s health. They were injured when a produce truck lost its load of broccoli on their car, sending them both to the hospital.

It’s best not to fret about it. After all, humanity is a million years older this week than we thought it was last week, at least according to a new study “based on a controversial and still experimental technique.”

Aren’t they all though?


“Validated Living Supercentenarians.” The Gerontology Research Group. 22 April 2003.

Associated Press. “Study Links Fast Food, TV to Obesity in Whites.” Washington Post. 9 March 2003. Page A09.

News Services. “Robert C. Atkins, Diet Guru and Author, Dies.” Washington Post. 18 April 2003; Page B06;

Reuters. “Diet, Exercise Shown to Control Hypertension.” Los Angeles Times. 23 April 2003.,1,4624603.story?coll=la-news-a_section

Davison, Anna. “Couple injured by avalanche of veggies.” Santa Barbara News-Press. 17 April 2003.

Haney, Daniel Q. Associated Press. “Vegetable Diet Found to Lower Cholesterol.” Los Angeles Daily News. 6 March 2003.,1413,200~20954~1226483,00.html

Hotz, Robert Lee. Times Staff Writer. “Study Adds a Million to Age of Humanity.” Los Angeles Times. 26 April 2003.,1,6168770.story?coll=la-news-a_section

Leff, Lisa. Associated Press. “Oldest American Dies at 113.” Houston Chronicle. 22 April 2003.

McConnaughey, Janet. Associated Press. “Long-term Study Links Body Fat to Cancer.”  Washington Times. 24 April 2003.

Oliver, Myrna. Times Staff Writer. “J. McMorran, 113; Oldest Man in U.S., 5th-Oldest Ever.” Los Angeles Times. 27 February 2003;,1,361361.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

Pérez-Peña, Richard. “For Long Life, Try Living in New York, Report Says.” New York Times. 22 April 2003.

Wald, Matthew L. “Hit-and-Runs Are Tied to Almost 1 in 5 Pedestrian Deaths.” New York Times. 22 April 2003.

Wall, Lucas. “Streets here not as deadly as they seem.” Houston Chronicle. 22 April 2003.

Woo, Elaine. Times Staff Writer. “Mary Christian, 113; Was Oldest Person in U.S.” Los Angeles Times. 23 April 2003.,1,5603050.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california


(Editor's note: No one should go hungry during these trying times. If you have the means, please donate to your local food bank. Even a dollar goes a long way. Simply search "food banks near me" to find one. If you're in need, please contact them for help.)


Tom Pfeifer is president and CEO of Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Do you write? Do you want to be inspired by successful writers? Sign up for 52 Motivational Writer's Quotes, delivered to your inbox every Monday!​​