“I’ll feel OK just as soon as I can be up in my room lying down,” Idol said, pondering a piece of birthday cake topped with a scoop of ice cream.
The resident of Hearthstone of Northern Nevada turned 101 on Wednesday, and the staff and residents at the senior living facility at Sparks and Baring boulevards gathered in the early afternoon to celebrate. Surrounding Idol, who is still pretty sharp in the mind despite being mostly confined to a wheelchair, were four family members, including two nieces whom Idol helped raise.
“She’s better than all of us put together,” said niece Patsy Patterson, 73, about her aunt’s health. Even now, Idol only takes a little bit of heart medication and was never in the hospital until just a few years ago, Patterson said. One year ago at her 100th birthday, Idol even got up and danced a little.
Whether tripping the light fantastic or tripping across the globe, Idol has always been an active person, her family says. During World War II, she worked in a screw factory in Southern California while her husband, Jim, worked on the docks. He died 40 years ago, after which Idol did a lot of traveling with a new boyfriend. She moved to Reno in the 1960s and owned the Rancho Reno Motel, which used to be in the spot where Meadowood Mall now sits.
“If her bones would hold up and her mind would hold up, I’m guessing she’d go to 120,” Patterson said.
Hearthstone activities director Edna Redmond said this is the first time she has thrown a birthday party for a resident with so many candles on her birthday cake. Redmond, who has known Idol for about a year and half, said the centurion likes to get her nails done and likes listening to live music.
“As long as it’s in the groove, she’s happy,” Redmond said.
There wasn’t any live music or dancing on Wednesday, but Idol did receive a few presents — a nightgown and a necklace, among others — and her family members displayed a few photographs from throughout her many years. One photo showed Idol and Jim in a wedding picture from 1938. Another showed a teenage Idol with her parents and eight siblings. Another showed her with a crown and bouquet at her 100th birthday last year.
“When we went to Aunt Myrtle’s house we always had to dress up and there was lots of food and Easter egg hunts,” Patterson recalled of her childhood.
As Wednesday’s party wound down, a Hearthstone attendant helped Idol gather her belongings and fulfilled her birthday wish to go back to her room and lie down.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Idol said as she was wheeled away. She was probably just as thankful for the well-wishes as she was to go back to her room.
“I asked her, ‘What is your secret?’” Redmond said. “She said just to be good.”