John McCain's Mom Roberta McCain Is 108 and 'Doing Great': Inside Her Birthday After Pneumonia Scare
What does one do to celebrate turning 108? If you’re Roberta McCain, you enjoy some carrot cake, coffee and a few loved ones.
On Friday, the McCain matriarch and mom of the late Sen. John McCain (and grandmother to The View co-host Meghan McCain) marked her latest birthday at her regal home in Washington, D.C., with her son Joe and and her best friend Greta Van Susteren, the TV news anchor, who brought the cake and candles.
“This lady who is 108 today was born two months before the Titanic sailed, that’s how long she’s been around,” Joe, 77, tells PEOPLE.
When asked if Joe feels lucky his mom has lived this long, he says: “It’s amazing.”
About four weeks ago, Roberta was hospitalized for three days for pneumonia and is now recovered. “A little antibiotics, a little oxygen and she was out of the hospital,” Joe says.
Adds Van Susteren: “She was in perfect health today. For 108, she’s doing great for her age.”
After Roberta had a stroke a little more than 10 years ago, Joe moved in to take care of her. “Joe exercises her every day,” says Van Susteren, “to make sure she is strong.”
Her son says her regimen includes guiding her to stand, straighten up and do chair lifts — where she sits in a chair then goes up on her feet and back down 10 times.
Roberta has outlived two of her three children: John, who died at 81 of brain cancer in 2018 and daughter Sandy, who Joe says died in November of mesothelioma. She was 85.
Meghan shared her own birthday wishes, tweeting:
“Happy 108th Birthday to my nana Roberta. You are our matriarch. Completely ageless, classic, lovely, strong, smart, sarcastic, irreverent and all things I love in this world. We are so grateful for you.”
On The View on Friday, when asked if Roberta has shared her secret to a long life, Meghan recalled her grandma saying “her sense of humor.”
“People always ask me if she’s with it,” Meghan said. “She watches the show, we talk about politics and life. And she’s just amazing … she loves life. And it’s just amazing — 108.”
Speaking with PEOPLE, Joe said he hoped to have his mom’s longevity genes. (Her identical twin sister, Rowena, died at 99 in 2012.)
Could it be her diet? Van Susteren laughs.
“We just had cake and coffee.”
“[Roberta] is the quintessential omnivore,” says Joe. This includes eating candy.
The birthday festivities will continue on Saturday with a luncheon on Roberta’s fine china at her house with close friends. The chef from The Georgetown Inn will prepare the meal.
When Joe thinks about what he most appreciates about his mom, he says it’s “all the things she knows, and she is very alert and always interested in stuff.”
Roberta, known for her elegance and adventurous spirit, traveled the world with Rowena, hitting the road for months at a time driving through a plethora of countries.
She refused to let age become a barrier.
In 2005 in France, when Roberta and Rowena were told they could not rent a car because they were then in their 90s, Roberta bought a red BMW, drove it around the continent and then shipped it back to America.
Another escapade involving a vehicle happened in 2003, when Roberta drove Joe’s Chevy Beretta cross country. She later confessed she got a ticket for going 112 miles per hour in Arizona, where John was then a senator.
“The kicker is, the cop looks at her last name, makes no recognition whatsoever, she pays the fine and tip-toes out of the state,” Joe recalls. “If the cops recognized her, she would have been in every paper in Arizona.”
After her husband, Navy Admiral John S. McCain Jr., died in 1981, travels soothed Roberta’s grief. She went to Europe “to get out of her depression, she traveled twice a year and bought everything,” says Joe.
So when it comes to her birthday, “I tell everyone: ‘No presents.’ “