12-12-12 is a rare date to experience even once. Experiencing it twice, as Ivy Morgan did yesterday on her 100th birthday, is remarkable.
Born in London, England, on Dec. 12, 1912, Ivy celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church, making jokes and small talk as she reminisced about her extra-long life.
It was during some of England's darkest years -- the blitz bombing of London in 1943 -- that she gave birth to her son, John. She vividly recalled how she rode her bike to work one day only to turn the corner and find that the next block had been freshly bombed. She could still see the smoke rising from the rubble.
"I just missed it!" she said, her eyes wide.
The sirens would go off frequently, she said in her formal English accent, and when they were done, she would often look up to see the house across the street completely demolished.
During the final stage of her pregnancy, she was taken outside the city for her safety. Other than that, though, she lived in London during the entire ordeal.
Another memorable moment in history for Ms. Ivy was when King Tut's tomb was discovered in November of 1922. It was marvelous, she said. Her son later took her to an exhibition when it came to Atlanta.
Ivy and her late husband, Laurence, came to visit her son, John, and daughter-in-law, Jan, twelve years ago for her 60th wedding anniversary. The couple was living in Riviera, Florida at the time.
In an event that sent shock waves through the whole family, Ivy and Laurence were involved in a terrible car accident during their visit that led to Laurence's death.
Following that tragedy, she came to live permanently with her children. The family gets along very well, and she participates in Westminster's Calvin Cove program in order to socialize, play games and be in a safe environment.
"It gives her something to do that's different," said Jan, "while I can go to the store or to a doctor appointment without having to leave her by herself."
Jan describes her mother-in-law as very sweet, with a sense of humor that is emblematic of the British "dry wit."
According to John, his mother worked as a shorthand/typist for Ely's Department Store in Wimbledon. She began work at the age of 14, and held the same position until 1960, when she emigrated to the U.S.
Rather than take the bus to work, she rode her bicycle every day. Her enthusiasm for cycling "led her to join the Southwest London Cycling Club, where she became one of the group's 'hard riders'," according to a short biography John put together in honor of his mother.
This group would ride 100 miles on the weekends, and she could beat most men in the races she participated in.
She met her husband, an aircraft engineer, at the cycling club. They were married on July 6, 1940, had their son in 1943 and emigrated to the States in 1960. They traveled by the ship USS Rotterdam, traveling past the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty, as millions of emigrants did before them.
She worked at the City of Riviera's Water Department until she was in her mid-80s, and became their oldest employee ever. She now has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom live in Atlanta.
Her beloved cat, Minnie, is her constant companion.
The volunteers at Calvin Cove surprised her with gifts from her favorite shop, Taste of Britain, a Norcross specialty store that has all her favorite English foods and goodies.
Aside from playing cards, watching classic films and reading and reciting English poetry, she goes to Karaoke every Saturday night with John and Jan, "attracting a crowd of admirers who are amazed at her age and spunk and delight in her English accent," according to John.
Morgan is one of 72,000 Centenarians living in the U.S. today. Other people born that year include Julia Child, Gene Kelly and Lady Bird Johnson.
Fun facts about the year 1912:
- A new house cost $25,000
- Bread cost 5 cents
- The average yearly wage was $750
- It was the year that the Titanic sank
- Oreo Cookies and Lifesaver candies were introduced
Calvin Cove, a ministry of Westminster Presbyterian, was founded 13 years ago in order to give caregivers of older adults respite care. Their program is available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week from 10:00 am - 3:00 pm. For more information on the program, contact director Kathy Mayhew at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (404) 384-8207.