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News > Press Releases > Press Release

Press Release

Release Date: March 04, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

  • An active community member in Tulsa, Lois Colaw regularly attends Tulsa Chickasaw Citizen Connection meetings. Colaw is pictured with Chickasaw Nation Community Outreach Liaison Nick Martinez.

  • 97-year-old Lois Colaw took a leap of faith by skydiving for the first time in March. She plans to continue to skydive until she is 102.

Many dream about retirement. A time to sit back, enjoy the grandkids, live life at a slower pace, and just relax and appreciate the smell of freshly brewed coffee. These activities just get 97-year-old Chickasaw citizen Lois Colaw started.

With days full of volunteering at local hospitals and a bursting social calendar, Colaw has found time to actively indulge her passions since retirement. These passions include gallivanting across the globe, hiking treacherous mountain peaks and skydiving in her hometown of Tulsa.

“I went skydiving this year,” Colaw said. “It was exciting. I did it because my nephew dared me. I plan on doing it every year until I am 102. That’s when my passport expires, so I think I will take it easy then. Skydiving is scary, but beautiful as you float down to the earth.”

Colaw has decided her next adventure will be climbing a two-story indoor rock wall, albeit with safety tethers, ropes and professionals guiding her.

Colaw was born in 1924, in Atoka, Oklahoma. She received her Chickasaw heritage from her mother, Myrtle Stephens. She is also proud of her Cherokee lineage.

Like many fellow Chickasaws, education is important to her. Colaw completed nursing school at the Wesley School of Nursing, Oklahoma City, followed by earning her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago.

“I graduated in 1948,” Colaw said. “I was a Navy cadet nurse from 1943 until 1946. Back then, the government took over a lot of the medical education. The day I graduated from nursing school I was supposed to go into the Navy, but I was awarded a scholarship to go to the University of Chicago. That changed my life.”

Colaw stayed in Chicago after graduation but missed Oklahoma’s warmer climate and, in 1951, moved to Tulsa.

Along with nursing, she has had stints working as a teacher. As the eldest of eight children, she believes the nursing and education professions came naturally.

“When I was a girl, I dreamed of being a teacher at the University of Oklahoma,” Colaw said. “I am glad life had other things in store for me. I became a nurse. I love people and just want to take care of them. It’s hard to explain, I am just a caregiver.”

As a nurse, she cared for the most vulnerable of our population, newborns and elders. Colaw believes her culture had a hand in the development of her career.

“My Native American heritage means the world to me,” Colaw said. “We are giving people. We help our neighbors and those in need. I have never known any different.”

She says she never really retired but just changed jobs where she isn’t being paid. She continues giving to her community. It is not uncommon for her to spend 8 to 10 hours a day completing community service.

“I deliver nearly 1,000 magazines a month to assisted living facilities, senior adult centers, churches, hospitals and nursing homes,” Colaw said. “I have slowed down a little since I gave up my driver’s license. I figure 75 years’ worth of driving is double what most people drive; I think I will take it a little easier now.”

Colaw is also a member of a group that writes cards and letters, and makes phone calls to people 100 years and older to let them know they are still thought of and cared for. She spends countless hours volunteering to enhance the performing arts too.

At 88, her community service work was recognized by St. Jude Hospital. She was invited, along with others in the medical profession, to go to South America to treat the underprivileged.

Colaw began traveling extensively in 1984. Since that time, she has been to Iceland, Paris, London and many other exotic destinations.

“Traveling is educational,” she said. “I love to travel. I have been to six continents, and more countries than I can keep track of. I never had any trouble, even when I did not speak the language. Everyone knows what a greeting is, what a smile is. We all know what food is, and other things that bind us together. People and experiences are the most important thing in my life.”

Next year, Colaw plans to visit Poland, where she will tour both Warsaw and Kraków.

Colaw believes the most exciting time of her life is the present. She can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her.

“This is the most exciting time in history. I have lived from covered wagons to men walking on the moon. The technology we have is amazing,” Colaw said.