Sept. 29, 2011 -- When Marie Kellogg turned 99 on Tuesday, she carefully painted her white and red makeup onto her face and slipped into her costume as she had a hundred times before. On that day, she may just have been the world's oldest clown.
"Here in the retirement community I do a little [clowning], but I don't do much anymore because of my wrinkles," Kellogg said, laughing.
The Kansas City resident, whose stage name for 50 years was Posie the Clown, only dresses up occasionally now, but she walks without assistance, takes no prescription medicine and is in excellent health, she said.
Kellogg traveled the country in her younger years, attending clown conventions and schools, and performing at small celebrations around her native city. She said she remembers the first time a clowning instructor asked the class to go out on their first assignment.
"A girl from class and I put the clown make-up on our faces and went out to Loose Park and walked," she said. "Two little kids with their mothers ran ahead like kids do, and ran back and said, 'Those women are clowns up there!' And the mothers said, 'Don't talk like that about other people.' And we turned around and said, 'We are clowns!' and I thought it was so funny that I just kept with it."
She also started the first clowning class at a community college in Kansas City, teaching a dozen students the art of putting on makeup and doing magic tricks a couple of nights a week.
The young-at-heart Kellogg didn't began clowning until she was already retired from her working life, as a claims authorizer at Social Security, and was interested in finding a hobby.
A widow, Kellogg remembered how her husband, Leonard, had started a square dancing club when the couple moved to Seaside, Oregon, when they were in their 40s.
"Square dancing was just getting started out there and people found out he was a caller, and so he called for square dance clubs and then we decided to start a club," she said. "In the beginning it only had eight people, and it was cold and rainy, and I was so discouraged I wanted to stop, but he said, 'Oh, no, I'm going to teach it if I have to pay the rent out of my pocket,' and he did."
The pair ran two successful clubs before Leonard died of pancreatic cancer in his early 50s, and Kellogg moved back to Kansas City to help take care of her disabled mother and be with her sister. It was there that she saw an ad for a clowning class and decided to go over and check it out. Soon, she was performing around town.
"At shoe store openings, that kind of thing," she said.
"When I got started with clowning, people would say, 'I'd like to clown,' and they needed somebody to teach clowning just like Leonard taught square dancing. If Leonard hadn't taught square dancing, I'd never have started clowning," she said.
Kellogg went to a local night class program and proposed teaching a non-credit class for clowns.
"Well, he'd never heard of such a thing but he put it in the catalogue and I made lesson plans, and I was a little short, but we had enough people," she said.
Kellogg said she continued clowning and teaching until her "ears gave out," and her sister fell ill, and then she put the costume away.
The jovial nonagenarian kept active, however, traveling around the world to New Zealand, Australia and Eastern Europe in the 1980s. For the last, she saved up all of her vacation from work to take a two-month leave and travel around Czechoslovakia and Poland.
"If there's anything good and patriotic about you as an American, you become more patriotic doing that. I enjoy seeing other countries, it makes me realize we have a very good country if we can just keep it that way," Kellogg said.
Following Tuesday's birthday celebration and a story in the local newspaper featuring Kellogg in full costume, the registered member of Clowns of America said she thinks her clowning days are now permanently past her. Asked if she'd don the outfit one more time, for the big 100, Kellogg didn't hesitate.
"No way, I'm going to reject it next time," she said, laughing. "That's it."