MANATEE — Hazel Slayton’s favorite day of the year is Christmas.
This year, she will celebrate her 102nd.
The Pennsylvania native, now at a Manatee Springs Care & Rehabilitation, Inc. residence, loves the colorful holiday lights festooned around town.
She’s also happy this time of year because her birthday is Dec. 20.
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Wednesday, the staff at the nursing facility threw her a birthday party, combined with a holiday parade.
No, it was not a “White Christmas” like those she knew as a child growing up; but Florida came through with sunny warmth and blue-sky perfection for the party featuring motorcycles, music, dancing and singing.
Slayton’s birthday cake blazed with candles at the tidy residence at 5627 Ninth St. E., home to 110 people.
So, how does it feel to be 102? a reporter asked Slayton, who was wearing pearls and clutching candy canes in one slim hand.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I feel like I’m about 80.”
Her husband, Harold, has passed away, and her five children are scattered across the country.
Still, she is content with her life as a wife, mother, and one-time office worker.
“I’ve had a good life, a good family,” she said.
Her droll sense of humor trumped her frail body.
What, after so much living, would she advise people to do for a fulfilling life? she was asked.
“Live each day, one at a time,” she replied, adding, “Do what you think is the right thing to do.
“Follow God’s instructions; if you follow God’s instructions, you’re following the best advice.”
Outside, a DJ who had been playing holiday favorites packed up to go to the next party. The motorcyclists had cranked up their bikes and left in a flurry of noise.
Watching everything was 10-year-old Delaney Richardson, who attended the festivities with her mother, Rebecca Richardson, an employee at the home.
Delaney wore party reindeer horns decorated with bells that rang when she moved.
She surveyed the now-quiet grounds.
She thought about Slayton and what 102 years on earth meant.
Finally, she concluded: “I think it’s pretty cool, cause I’ve never met anybody that old.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.