ROSEVILLE, Calif. — 1919 was an important year.
World War I came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which (after being ratified by the states) gave women the right to vote.
Also, Mathilda "Millie" Forry was born.
On Wednesday, this Roseville woman enjoyed the party of the century, as she marked her 100th birthday, surrounded by family members, friends – and a zany, 25-person marching band.
“The thing she asked for was a parade,” explained Forry’s daughter, Christine McCarter.
Forry lives with her daughter and son-in-law.
“Mom moved in with us about five years ago,” McCarter said, her voice breaking with emotion. “She has Alzheimer’s, and over the last five years, it’s been continually worse.”
Sitting in the warm, cozy dining room of their Roseville home, McCarter said she plans on having her mom live with them for as long as possible.
“I really believe that the longer that we are able to keep her here with us – and that’s our goal – Mom’s going to make it many more years,” McCarter said.
At that, Forry’s eyes lit up.
“I’m having a wonderful time!” she proclaimed, with a boisterous, dancing laugh that punctuates many of her sentences.
“Why do you think you made it all the way to 100?” McCarter asked her mom as they sat at the table. “I want to know because I’ve got, like, 30 years to go. What do I have to do?”
“Drink!” Forry stated, with perfect deadpan comedic timing.
“Mom!” McCarter exclaimed, as the two cracked up.
Forry is joining an exclusive club. According to the CDC, 1/50th of one percent (that’s 0.0002%!) of the population of the US is at least 100 years old. In a 2016 report, the CDC said the US had 72,197 centenarians in 2014, which was a 43.6 percent increase in that population from 2000, meaning more people are living to the age of 100 or older.
Mark Forry is McCarter’s brother and Forry’s son. He and longtime, sister-like family friend Cheryl Trembley sat with the mother-daughter duo, as all of them swapped childhood memories before birthday party guests arrived.
“I can’t honestly say that she’ll remember this tomorrow,” McCarter said, of her mother. “We call it living in the moment.”
Forry's memory of her early years are crisp, McCarter said, but more current memories can get foggy or lost.
Despite being a centenarian with Alzheimer's disease, Forry isn’t done being social. She still plays bridge and pinochle and is going on a 10-day Alaskan cruise with McCarter, Trembley and her daughter-in-law in June. She was an active member of Saints Peter & Paul Church in Rocklin.
Dozens of Forry’s friends attended her 100th birthday party Wednesday. They gathered around the cul-de-sac as Forry – driven by her 16-year-old great-grandson in a red convertible – waved at fans lining the street.
The Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band & Temperance Society, Lmtd., an eccentric and lively marching band that has entertained the Sacramento region for the better part of 50 years, followed her. They blasted hits from Forry’s era, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s big band classics ‘In the Mood’ and ‘Pennsylvania 65000.’
Decked out in a colorful birthday hat and wide grin, Forry clapped, sang along and exchanged banter with the group’s leader, Capt. Rufus T. Whizbang.
“Happy birthday, lady!” he exclaimed. “So you’re 100 today? Oh my! And the skies parted and the rain backed off.”
“All for me!” Forry said with a cascading laugh.
“We are so happy to be here today,” Whizbang told the crowd.
“Hey,” Forry interrupted. “You know what? I’m lucky, too.”
“Why are you lucky?” Whizbang asked.
“To be here at 100!” she said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
“Hell yes!” Whizbang replied emphatically.
After a concert in the cul-de-sac, the band retreated, and the party moved to the McCarters’ home, where Forry blew out the 100 candles on her cake – with a little help from her daughter and son.
“The secret to everything,” Forry revealed, is to “be happy.”
Surrounded by family, friends and laughter Wednesday, Forry soaked up enough happiness to propel her for a long time, adding to an already-rich life.
Forry and her husband enjoyed 66 years of marriage. He died in 2011. She got her associate’s degree from Sierra College 30 years ago, at age 70.
“That was a proud moment,” McCarter said.
She was born and grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District and always loved dancing, something she got to do – gently – with her son on Wednesday.
“That was absolutely fantastic,” Mark Forry said as the band finished its concert. “I teared up about three or four times, and I am right now, too.”
The day – like Forry herself – was a joy-filled one for the record books.
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Birthdays are a big deal for some people. For Ike Schultz, his 85th birthday was one to remember because of all his birthday cards.