Last summer, I got to meet Mikki Paul a few weeks before her 100th birthday. It was a warm August afternoon in 2017, and I believe we spoke for a little over an hour, more than enough time to write a story about her big birthday celebration.
I remember all the Elvis memorabilia she had in her North Sioux City home. I remember how she outright demanded that I take a piece of candy with me before I left our interview. I remember how often she smiled. I remember how proud she was of her work ethic. And I remember how, at 99, she wanted nothing more than to go back to work as a Walmart greeter.
Mikki took pride in her work and she loved the people, she told me. And from the looks of things, the people loved Mikki.
Margaret "Mikki" Paul died Jan. 30, 2018. The people that knew her shared their condolences online, saying kind words and remembering what they'll miss most about her.
I can't say I knew Mikki all that well. I only met her once. But that's the thing about Mikki. You only had to meet her once to truly care for her and admire her.
I admired her values. She loved to work. Not many people can say that. I love being able to write for a living, but you can bet there are days where I get jaded and angry and frustrated. I'll get lazy and complacent.
But then I think of Mikki and how she viewed her jobs. She made sure she looked nice. She arrived to work on time. She cared about what she did. And I respect her greatly for that. I could probably learn a thing or two from her.
I think we all could. She had been around for more than a century. You can probably bet she has a bit of life experience.
And yet when I talked to her last summer, it was hard to get any answers from her about what she thought of this or that. Sure she remembered World War II and the JFK assassination and other historical events, but she didn't seem to dwell on them like I thought she might.
Maybe Mikki didn't dwell on the past. I like to think that probably had something to do with her living to be 100 years old. She'd probably tell ya it was the work that kept her young at heart.
A friend of mine happens to be related to Mikki. He calls her "Aunt Mikk." When I asked him what it was about Mikki that made people like her so much, he couldn't come up with just one thing:
"Her smile. Her energy. She had a great, great outlook on life. Every single person that I've seen comment on social media [or] that's come up to me, they always remember how nice she was. [...] All around the sweetest lady you'll ever meet in your life. [...] She will always remain an icon of Sioux City."
Clearly, she had an impact on people. I don't know if it was her smile, her charming demeanor or how she refused to retire, but there was just something about her that we all connected to.
Mikki is the type of person who is hard to forget. And I think we can all take comfort in knowing that.