Pacifica celebrates its only centenarian
By LOIS KINDLE
Feb. 2 was a big day for Pacifica Sun City Center resident Mary Ellen Dalrymple. She became the assisted living community’s only 100 year old and was thrown a big surprise party a few days in advance to commemorate the occasion.
After getting her hair done by her granddaughter in Pacifica’s in-house salon Jan. 31, she thought she was going to play bingo, one of her favorite afternoon activities. Instead, she was led to the living room, where the Pacifica staff was holding a “meeting” to make a big announcement.
As Mary Ellen approached, 30 or so residents, family members and staff, yelled, “Happy Birthday!”
The centenarian was totally surprised. Activities Director Jennifer Petit had set up and festively decorated a table in the hallway with a cake, balloons, sparkling juice, glass flutes, a banner made by Lennard High School students, handmade cards from 100 Winthrop Charter School 4th graders, plus 10 or so others sent by people outside the residence.
Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to her, enjoyed some cake and toasted her big day.
“I want to thank you all for coming,” Mary Ellen said. “I won’t be here when you turn 100, so I’m going to say, “Happy Birthday to you, now.”
After living ten decades, Mary Ellen doesn’t remember dates all that well, but she does recollect moments in her life and the things she enjoys.
During the Great Depression, she recalls working at a shirt factory and making Manhattan shirts for 16.5 cents an hour. Not much for politics, she is an Independent who still votes. Her favorite presidents were FDR and Harry Truman.
Originally from Warren, Pa., she came to Florida with her first husband in 1980. After he died, she waited 13 years to remarry. She had two children, a daughter who died at age 37 and a son, now 73, who visits her weekly. She has five grandchildren and six great-grandkids.
This 100-year-old woman enjoys an occasional glass of Moscato or bourbon and loves plays playing solitaire on her computer. And she LOVES bingo, scratch-off tickets and going to the Hard Rock Casino with family members or Pacifica staff.
Mary Ellen’s advice to others? “Work hard and play hard,” she said.
She likes to be needed and enjoys helping Petit with all kinds of activities at the residence and going to Prince of Peace Catholic Church.
Reflecting on today’s state of affairs, the centenarian paused and then said, “You know something? The old days compared to new days…I’d rather go back to the old days. It’s a tough world.”