BATAVIA – When Mary West, a resident of The Holmstad in Batavia, was born, Orville Wright still was a couple of months away from piloting the first powered airplane 20 feet above a beach in North Carolina.
Staff and fellow residents at The Holmstad on Wednesday celebrated West’s 110th birthday.
West, who lives in The Holmstad’s Michaelson Center, was born Oct. 23, 1903. Wright didn’t take that first flight until Dec.17, 1903.
“We’re privileged to do this,” said Marya Jordan, administrator at the Michaelson Health Center. “She has a rich history to share with all of us.”
West moved to The Holmstad in 1981. The lush landscaping on The Holmstad’s campus is in part because of her efforts.
To honor The Holmstad’s first permanent campus administrator, Harry Ekstam, she established the Harry Ekstam Landscape and Beautification Endowment in 1996, which is used to enhance the beautification of The Holmstad campus. Ekstam had a vision for campus landscaping to project an atmosphere of peace and creativity.
West is not one to acknowledge her age.
“I gave her a cake on her 107th birthday, and she told me, ‘That is such a nice gesture. Of course, I’m not 107,’ ” said Marcy Burtch, a financial facilitator at The Holmstad.
Burtch has known West for 23 years.
“She has a way of genuinely greeting you,” Burtch said. “She is very warm and gracious and very sophisticated.”
Fellow Holmstad resident Lola French researched West’s life for a story that will be included in the next edition of The Holmstad’s newsletter.
“I was intrigued by the fact that she was still alive and well at that age,” French said.
French found out that West was chairman of the social science department at Proviso East High School in Maywood and retired in 1969 after 31 years of service.
While she was at Proviso East, she co-sponsored a school field trip to New York City in 1947 to visit the newly founded United Nations.
“She loved American history,” French said.
So, what is West’s secret to a long, healthy life?
“An apple a day,” Burtch said. “She had told a former doctor at The Holmstad that she ate an apple a day her whole life.”
During the birthday celebration, West was greeted by many people, and she spent some time sleeping.