Published: Friday, January 22, 2016 at 6:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2016 at 6:16 p.m.
Six Gainesville residents celebrated their birthdays Friday with icing balloons on vanilla cake and colorful party hats with silver streamers. Popular music poured from the piano in the corner of the room to entertain the group of about 60 people.
There were tunes like “Singing in the Rain,” “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and talk of playing bridge.
The residents of The Village at Gainesville, a senior living community, weren’t just celebrating any birthday. They all turn 100 years old or older this year, and were celebrating their long lives.
It was the event’s second year, and Paula Bowlan, director of residential life at The Village, 8000 NW 27th Blvd., said it’s remarkable that almost everyone still lives independently.
Harriet Chadik, who turns 100 in March, helped build a school from the ground up. She was an executive secretary at an elementary school for 35 years until one day her husband told her that they ought to retire. She meant a lot to the school, though, and when she went to tell her boss, a pastor, he couldn’t believe it, she said.
“I said, “Father, I’m going to retire,’” she shouted over the music, “ and he said, ‘Oh no. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.’”
Chadik said when she began at the school it had only 15 students and when she left, there were over 500 students. She misses the school life, Chadik said.
“When I came here, they said, ‘How do you like it?’ I said, ‘There’s so many old people,” she exclaimed. “My son said, ‘You’re probably older than everyone,’ and I said, ‘That’s probably true.’”
Chadik laughed. She, like most of the others, said she doesn’t feel like 100.
In the corner of the room with her posse of about 10 people, friends and family, Elise Turrell, turning 102, delved into her past with her daughter, Elise Webb.
Webb told the story of an email they received from a man in Michigan that led to new connections. The man, a complete stranger, found the box at a garage sale, thought the photos were valuable, bought them for $10 and tried to find the owner.
The photos were all black and white. There were babies in wooden carriages and a woman in a petticoat and formal wear. Another photo showed a girl with short hair cruising in the back of a sailboat.
The photos were all of Turrell and her family from about 70 years ago. The stranger reached out to them and sent the photos last year, and Turrell was reconnected with her past.
Turrell was an avid sailor and dabbled in journalism, working for LIFE Magazine and Ladies Home Journal. She did public relations work for hospitals and had three children.
Her secret to living a long life?
“Oh, I leave that to the other people,” she said, throwing her hand up nonchalantly.
A friend, Jim Newman, points to a picture of a young girl, about 4 years old, kissing her brother on the cheek.
“You haven’t changed,” he declared.
Someone nearby joined in, “Still kissing boys.”
Near her sat Dorothy House, who wore a flamingo pink and sunset orange jacket that matched her pink-and-yellow cake. She turns 100 in April.
Vicky Adams, House’s caretaker for seven years, said she enjoys taking care of House.
“She’s very entertaining,” Adams said. “She never says, ‘Can’t.’ She just keeps going and wandering off. She’s like the energizer bunny.”
House’s hobbies include playing bridge and completing Sudoku puzzles. She usually does level four and five Sudoku puzzles, the most advanced.
In a raspy voice, she said she used to work for the Navy and loved to travel to different islands and around the world.
“We had the best of times,” she said. “I’m lucky to live through the time that I did.”
Lorraine Mott and Sam Greenburg both turn 104 this year. Greenburg still drives.
Glen Mott, her son, said Mott has lived through many bouts of cancer and described her as the poster child for a perfect lifestyle.
“No smoking and no drinking,” he said. “She really has a great attitude about life. She knows where she came from and where she’s going, and the rest is easy.”
Glen Mott said until a year or so ago, his mother would visit the gym and lift weights.
Hannah Harwick, the last to leave the party, turns 100 this year. Her granddaughter, graduating high school this year, shouted questions to Harwick, who said her most exciting experience was flying in the 1930s.
“I flew to New York, and I was scared to death,” she said, “but it was beautiful, and all the lights, it was a beautiful flight, but I was holding onto (the airplane seat).”
She clutched at her black skirt, and her eyes widened.
“I still don’t like to fly,” she said. “My flying days are over.”
Her daughter-in-law, Criss Harwick, said the celebration was amazing.
“I can’t believe the ages of these people,” she exclaimed. “I mean 105, that’s incredible.”