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La Jolla centenarian Noreen Haygood celebrates a life of positivity

For the 100 years of Noreen Haygood’s life, the 35-year La Jolla resident has sought to have a “positive effect” wherever she goes.

That philosophy has applied at the La Jolla Woman’s Club, where she has been a member for 20 years; on the tennis court, where she still plays weekly; at the ballot box with a long-term effort to get young people registered to vote; with the San Diego Police Department as a volunteer; and more.

Haygood was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, during the Roaring ‘20s, only to see the Depression and World War II in the decades that followed during her formative years. That had a dramatic effect on her approach to life, she says.

“It is really hard to think or imagine how things were during the Great Depression,” she said. “There wasn’t a safety net for people, and I remember people actually coming to our door begging for bread. My mother baked bread twice a week because she realized that people didn’t show up at your door for no good reason, so she would make some to share.”

During World War II some years later, Haygood’s hometown was a military center, with troops from various countries stationed there.

“We had a torpedo net across the narrows of the harbor to keep the torpedoes out, and everybody had to have blackout curtains,” she said. “It was a serious time but also somewhat exciting, to be honest.”

After the war, her family moved to British Columbia, where Haygood got a job as an advertising writer. But she wanted more education and attended the University of Chicago to study human development.

“That was her big mistake,” Haygood’s husband, Ken, said with a laugh.

“That’s where I met Ken,” Haygood explained.

Noreen Haygood and her husband, Ken, have been married more than 70 years.

Noreen Haygood and her husband, Ken, have been married more than 70 years. (Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The two dated for a while before marrying in 1952. They eventually welcomed three daughters, though one did not survive infancy. Soon after, they adopted an infant son.

The family made several career-based moves across the country, including to Boston, Cleveland and Stamford, Conn. The Haygoods formed a consulting company called Haygood and Associates.

But as Noreen and Ken got older and children Margo, Leah and Paul were grown, they thought about where they would like to retire. They had family in San Diego and often visited the area. So they moved to La Jolla 35 years ago and have lived here since.

Noreen Haygood said she embraced the local outdoor offerings such as bird watching, walking and swimming.

“I have always been physically active,” she said, adding that she planned to play tennis on her 100th birthday Thursday, March 7. “I like activities like that because it is social and physical and keeps me active.”

Haygood also has been a longtime volunteer with the San Diego Police Department as a crisis interventionist, arriving on scene to comfort people in traumatic situations, including the death of a family member. In 2013, the department honored Haygood as Crisis Interventionist of the Year.

She says her efforts to have a positive effect may have contributed to her longevity.

“We do not have any really seriously bad habits,” she said. “We’re close to our families and our children and grandchildren and are socially active. Having interests and being connected to people is probably very important in living a long time. I think there’s a lot of luck about it, too.”

One connection that has been meaningful to Haygood is her involvement with the La Jolla Woman’s Club. She joined 20 years ago to play bridge — “one my longest-lasting activities,” she said — and has been a member ever since, including time on the board of directors.

Noreen Haygood gets a standing ovation at a La Jolla Woman's Club lunch held in her honor March 4.

Noreen Haygood gets a standing ovation at a La Jolla Woman’s Club lunch held in her honor March 4.(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

She was honored at a Woman’s Club lunch March 4 that included music from the Mission Bay Preservationists youth jazz band.

Calling her “our own Wonder Woman,” club President Tona Macken thanked Haygood for her years of service.

House director Pat McGill shared a story from Haygood’s time as director of the finance committee more than a decade ago.

“[We were] in the middle of the Great Recession,” McGill said. “But Noreen answered the call to save the club, which was about to go into debt. … She negotiated extensions with our creditors and waited patiently for our CDs [certificates of deposit] to mature.”

On the day of maturity, Haygood went to collect the funds.

“The bank gave her a bit of a runaround and told her she should come back another day,” McGill said. “She refused. Noreen rarely gets agitated, however on that day she sure did. The bank told her to calm down or they were going to call the police. Noreen whipped out her badge, telling them she is a registered volunteer in crisis intervention for the Police Department.”

Haygood got the funds, which were invested back into the club. “Ever since then, thanks to her leadership, the club and its finances have been very healthy,” McGill said, raising a glass for a toast. “We are very grateful for the legacy you created here … for generations to come. Cheers to you, Noreen.”