One Hundred Years

By Kate Riley November 8, 2009

You’ll often catch me uttering that old saying, “The days are long but the years are short.”  It was said to me by a great lady after I had my first child, when I was complaining of the exhaustion of new motherhood.  That great lady just turned 100 years old, and I had the pleasure of planning her grand birthday party. 

Verna Jones is my husband’s grandmother.  She’s a woman who’s traveled the world several times, and was married to the same man for 73 years.  73 years !  She’s witnessed our world change so dramatically over the past century.  With a mind as sharp as a tack, she tells vivid stories of her childhood travels with her family.  With that record, and all of her wisdom and insight, I often wondered why she was never on Oprah. 

verna and me

I met this wonderful lady when she was just a young thing, at age 85.  She always treated me with the utmost kindness, and welcomed me into her family from day one.  So today we threw her a great party to celebrate becoming a centenarian. 

The colors were whites and oranges, with teal blue accents, a nod to her favorite color.  The flowers were absolutely beautiful.  Hydrangeas, orange tulips, berries, ranunculus, and roses. 

fall flowers 

fall flowers 2

We scattered fall leaves all over the tables.

fall favors

A jazz trio played all the great classics

jazz trio

A helpful relative volunteered to bring the cake.  Have you ever seen these numbers written on a birthday cake before ?



This is the second centenarian’s birthday party I’ve attended this year.  Aunt Ginny, Verna’s sister in law, turned 100 this past April.  Aunt Ginny to this day has a light in her eye and a spring in her step.  When asked of her secret to longevity and happiness, she reminded me of this inspiring quote by Charles Swindoll that guided her for many years.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company… a church… a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”

It was challenging planning a party for 100 people long distance.  So many details to consider:  invitations, a caterer, a bartender, the facility, party favors, etc.   It was a long day, but we managed to pull it off, and the guest of honor was so very happy with the celebration.

This little guy, on the other hand, was not so pleased.  

me and verna

I only hope that I may live as full of a life as my dear Grandma Verna and reach the age of 100 years young.  Only sixty something years to go.  And I’ll remind myself that even though these days may seem long, I know those years will be very very short.


  1. My grandfather lived to be 97. I so wanted him to make it to 100. He still had it all going on…he had all of his mental faculties and could take care of himself, except for driving. I am so happy for you and your family to still have Verna in your life!!!!

  2. This was such a sweet entry. I’m newly pregnant with my second child and realizing how fast the time goes. This made me teary. Good for you for doing something so sweet for a person with so much to offer. Its very sad that society tends to overlook the people who’s ideas should be treasured!

  3. What a beautiful post. I like the quote by Swindoll. So true. I can remember when summers seemed endless and all I had no worries. Now that I have a child, marriage, business to run, it seems like as soon as I am packing the Halloween things away, I have to drag them out again.

  4. Happy 100th to Verna! She looks fabulous! I love the sweet photo! My mom is 83, I keep telling her I wish she would stay around for another 20 years (at least)! She always replies…”one day at a time….”. So much truth in that simple statement. Thank you for sharing this sweet post!


  5. Happy Birthday Grandma Verna! I really enjoyed the pictures of you both together. A really lovely post. I love the quote by Swindoll. A great way to start the week. Thank you.

  6. Wow, 100!! That is such an amazing gift in and of itself. The party looked like fun…I’m taking notes-my Nannie will turn 99 next May. What are the favors on the table? Everything looks lovely, and I really like the Charles Swindoll quote–something I could take to heart! :)

  7. Thank you! I loved this post so very much because it went straight to my heart. My Grandma “mawmaw” celebrated her 100th a few years back and we are all so blessed by her life. She passed away 6 months after her birthday very peaceful and at home. What an honor it is to have these special souls in our family. Enjoy everyday you have with her and soak her in….I pray you two have many more years to come. Happy Birthday Grandma Verna..Happy Birthday~

  8. What a treat for you to be able to plan such a wonderful party for someone that you love so dearly. I have learned the most from my husbands grandmothers. Aren’t grandmas the greatest? I know she must have had a wonderful day because of you and the beautiful party you gave her. Paula

  9. What a beautiful tribute. I love what you said about the value of attitude. Truer words were never spoken. Sometimes when I meet someone elderly with such a wonderful attitude and I wonder, knowing that they must have aches and pains, will I have such a great outlook when I’m older. It is definitely something to strive for.

  10. Oh, it looked like everyone had a wonderful time. The decorations were gorgeous. Happy 100 Birthday to you husband’s grandmother. What an accomplishment!

  11. What a wonderful celebration of life! I believe that generation has so much to offer us still… I’m glad you appreciate her for who she is and what she’s accomplished! Looks like it was a lovely party. Well done.

  12. Wow what a remarkable woman! My grandmother is nearing her centennial as well and as I read the Swindoll quote, I kept hearing her voice. She says the same thing (in her own words) every time I talk to her. Her spirit and zest for life has certainly guided her to her ripe old age of 95! I just love hearing/reading about other strong women. What a beautiful person she is!

  13. What a fabulous lady and such a wonderful celebration to celebrate such a milestone. l00 yrs. Wow, great for her. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Marty

  14. What a lovely party! My grandma (Nanny, as I called her), lived to be 100 and a half, and kept her dry sense of humor and good fashion sense right up until the end. My grandpa (on the other side of the family) passed away earlier this year at 93, and was also a super-feisty guy who always needed to keep busy. In his 80’s, he had a job loading UPS trucks! I hope that I’m blessed with that longevity, and the state of mind that came with it.

  15. Kate, this is a beautiful post. It actually made me tear up. It looks like it was a wonderful party. What lucky ladies (both of you)!!!! I came into work today tired, and with a poor attitude. I’m going to try and turn it around and be more like Verna!

  16. Stories like this warm my heart. Cherish the memories with her! My grandparents just celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary, grandpa is 102 and grandma 97. Love it!

  17. Wonderful post, thank you for sharing. Like the other comments, it reminded me of someone special to me. My Maw Maw is 92 and just got out of the hospital again. We were all certain we were going to lose her this time, but I guess she still has some fight left in her!

  18. What a touching, bittersweet post! Reminds me of my husband’s grandmother, who too accepted me into the family and treated me as one of her own grandchildren. We lost her in January, but I was blessed to know and love her for more than 20 years!

    Happy Birthday Verna!

  19. What a sweet post. My maternal grandmother passed away last year at the age of 93. For the first 90 years of her life she was so full of life and vibrant. Unfortunately Alzheimer’s took her away from us before she passed away. I really miss her and her infectous happy spirit. She taught all of us the meaing of hard work and the importance of family and she could always run rings around the rest of us!

  20. What a beautiful post – thank you for sharing about such a special person! My great Aunt lived to be 101 and to this day Aunt Marie is one of the dearest people I ever knew – I miss her greatly. I remember her praying in her last year or two everyday that the Lord would take her home that day. She had an impeccable memory and could remember her third grade teacher and all these stories that always left me in awe! Thanks again for such a sweet post!

  21. What a great post! I sit here w/my 81 yr old mother who has lymphoma, but still manages to teach step aerobics 3x a week. She just gave class this morning, then took the dog for a walk @ Apple Hill. She’s my hero.

  22. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story of Verna ~ Happy Birthday, Verna ! What a lovely Spirit.
    My Mom will be 99 on January 1, 2010. She has been very healthy, but battling pneumonia the last couple weeks. This is the first “long term” illness she has ever had and she is frustrated that she is not up and about her retirement home enjoying her friends and the activities there. I am looking forward to having a 100 th birthday party for her in 2011. Yes, it is attitude. She came here to the SF Bay Area after her home flooded in the New Orleans area when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina and has adjusted so well, loves all of her new friends and new family at her retirement home. She is Amazing !!!! Once she is fully recovered, I will take her up to Napa Valley for lunch and maybe ride the Wine Train again..she loved that years ago when she visited me. I want to do what I can to make her happy while I still have her here.

  23. What a lovely event to celebebrate and photographs to treasure

    we had a centenarian celebration last August, and it was a wonderful day. Sadly Uncle Frank passed away earlier this year

  24. This was such a lovely post. :)

    My maternal grama died when I was just 13; my paternal grama when I was 22. I always felt like I missed out on so much not having my grama’s around, so you’re very blessed to have such a wonderful woman in your life. And she’s equally lucky to have you in hers. :)

    Thanks for sharing her with us.

  25. This post made me cry. I got to have my maternal grandmother with me until she reached 94… and she seemed to have much of the same sage wisdom as Miss Verna. Happy Birthday to her and bless you for helping her celebrate her big day! I’m sure it meant a lot!!

  26. This made me cry. You’re so lucky to have such a beautiful, wise grandmother in your life. Always cherish her. Mine has been in the hospital for over two months and I’m afraid she won’t make it much longer, she’s 86 years old.

  27. Love the quote from Swindoll. So so so true! I wish I could have that tattooed on my forehead so I never forget it.

    Except that I’m not a fan of tattooes. And that’s a long quote, so it’d probably be pretty painful. Oh well. I’ll just count on my bloggy friends to keep my perspective clear. :)

  28. What a wonderful post, and thank you for the attitude reminder We become so busy and often let the poor attitudes and behaviors of others have an ill effect on us.

  29. How ironic that I’m reading this entry! My own grandma is turning 100 years “young” ON Thanksgiving Day this month! I am not involved in any party planning but am so excited about visiting her for her special day and party! I am putting together a photobook of my family (that’s what she wants for her birthday) and will use the quote by Swindoll you posted. THANK YOU! Beautiful pic of you and her. Blessings!

  30. Hi! I’m Chiara and I’m Italian. I always read your blog (I love what you made trasforming old stuff!) but I don’t write comments because my english it’s not so good and I’m shy for it… I think you’re very lucky to have a grandmother like Verna. All my grandparents have died and I miss them…
    I’d like to wish to Verna an happy birthday (in Italian!)… BUON COMPLEANNO NONNA VERNA!

  31. Happy, happy birthday! My grandmother will be 90 in January and, I hope, we will celebrate her 100th in 2020.

  32. How incredibly blessed you are to have Verna in your life. All of my grandparents are gone and I miss them so much especially my dad’s sweet mother, my granny!

    Please wish your sweet Verna Happy Birthday.

  33. How lovely and God Bless her! That’s a great picture with the two of you. Very inspiring, too!

  34. This was such an incredible post! I truly felt a big ball in my throat reading it. You are blessed to be surrounded by such women:)

  35. Happy 100th! That is so remarkable and so awesome. She looks so pretty in her pink. Bless her and you for all you have done for her and the love I read in your words for her.

  36. Happy Birthday to her!!

    I hope I get to live that long. My grandmother will turn 100 in January, but I dont get to see her much. She is in TN and I am in Florida. Its been 10 year I think since I last saw her.

  37. Hey,
    I did’t know that Verna Tuned 100. Thats awesome.
    She was so nice when I met her and painted her condo. So sweet and upbeat about everything. If we can all live the life that she has we would all be very lucky.
    God Bless you Verna.

  38. I absolutely LOVE the words of wisdom of your Aunt Ginny. I think everyone should listen closely to the good sense of these old gals. They’ve seen it all. Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m cutting and pasting it and will look at it often. Enough whining, already, we need to all get on with a life worth living. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    shelly leer

  39. Great post! Somehow, I missed this post last year. Happy Belated Birthday to Grandmother Verna! She looks so sweet! And I love the picture of you two together!

    Oh, and Happy Pre Birthday to Aunt Ginny…April is right around the corner! And, I love her inspiring quote!

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