Bradenton's Summerfield facility home to four residents older than 100 years old

newsintern@bradenton.comJuly 26, 2012 

MANATEE -- "If I would have known I was having my picture taken I would have dressed up!" Dorothy Herrins said recently as she posed for an outdoor picture.

At 101, Herrins is one of the oldest residents at the Summerfield Assisted Living Residence. She also accounts for a quarter of the population at Summerfield that can say they have lived for more than 100 years.

She sits in a room with two of the other women in the 100-plus club -- Nell Collins, the "baby" of the group, who will be celebrating her 101st birthday in August and Dell Trawick, the most senior of the group at 105. Rose Leonard, the fourth member, is 103.

The women may have a century behind them, but you would never guess it.

"That's three, four… what was that, six?" Herrins laughed as she counted off the number of pictures being taken with each click of the shutter.

After the photo shoot the women began the long walk back inside from the outdoor nature preserve that is their back yard.

Trawick walks at a brisk pace, which belies the fact she just finished a three-and-a-half month physical therapy program after shattering her left knee.

"There goes Speedy Gonzales," Collins said, taking her time walking back.

Collins has spent the past 50 years of her life in Tampa Bay. She spent the 50 before that in Northern Tennessee before retiring from her job as a hotel desk clerk and moving south.

The women all have southern connections.

"I've lived at 54 different addresses but I was born in a little town called Hoxie, Ark.," said Herrins as she recounted the story of her chance birth in a town so small the mayor himself had to deliver her. "I wouldn't recommend moving around that much to anyone but I've been happy all my life. Sad things happen, but I've always been happy."

Trawick, however, has the longest tenure both in Florida and at Summerfield. She's been living in Florida since 1925, Sarasota since 1960, and has called Summerfield home for the past 20 years.

"I was a bookkeeper. A real one, old-fashioned, actually had to 'keep up' with the books. When my husband quit his job, I quit mine. We built a home in Sarasota and I've been here ever since," Trawick said.

Summerfield Executive Director Nancy Thurman said none of the women act anywhere near their age.

"It has surprised me just how energetic and fun-loving they are. They're enjoying their lives and don't consider themselves to be 'old' by any stretch. The time I've spent with all of them has truly been inspirational for me." Thurman said.

Kurt Spurlock, newsroom intern for the Herald, can be followed on Twitter @KurtSpurlock.

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