Irene Brock strolled sprightly down the hall Thursday at Southern Manor Retirement Inn, pushing her walker in front of her and smiling. As she rounded the corner to the activity room, a small crowd of people greeted her with calls of "Happy Birthday!" Brock will be 100 years old Saturday.
"We're calling it the Irene Centennial," said her daughter, Susan DeMasse.
Irene Ethel Zelenak Brock was born in 1910 in the Bronx borough of New York City. After a lifetime of memories and living through major historical moments, Brock remains lucid, alert and full of life at age 99 and 363 days.
She wore a gray and pink rose floral outfit for her birthday party Thursday at Southern Home on Fair Road. Guests and residents at the retirement home enjoyed a pink and white cake, with a side of ice cream, to celebrate. Activity Director Judith Eastman welcomed everyone and spoke before serving the cake, calling to mind a number of historical events that have taken place during Brock's lifetime.
These include the last time the Wright brothers' flew together; World War I, World War II and all wars afterward to the present; the invention of the radio, microwave ovens and laptop computers. Eastman asked Brock who her parents were and when she was born, and she promptly answered with her parent's names and said "I was born on a Sunday in 1910, but I don't know what time."
But when asked when she was married, Brock giggled and said "I forgot, it's been so long."
Actually, it was 82 years ago when she and Addison Brock married. Theirs is a cute story; they met at a carnival and each gave a false name - Addision told Irene his name was Bob, and she gave him the last name "White" because she didn't like her maiden name, Zelnek, said DeMasse. "She called him Bob his whole life."
Some of the most amazing things Brock has seen in her life "are the radio and Vitrola," she said. A popular pastime as a child was listening to the radio, and one show in particular struck her fancy. "It was ‘One Man's Family,'" she said.
She named one of her daughters, Claudia, after a character in the show.
"I wanted to name our son Addison after his father, but no, he didn't like that name. We named him Allen."
Surrounded by a few of her 23 great grandchildren, Brock hugged them and took three tries before blowing out her candles. When asked about having lived 100 years, she said
"I am amazed. I didn't think I'd live this long. I always told my husband I would die before him, but he said ‘no, you'll live forever.'"
Although Brock has a lengthy past, she doesn't dwell in it, DeMasse said. She is very aware of modern issues, "and she knows who Lindsay Lohan is. She watches ‘Survivor' and ‘The Apprentice,' all those reality shows."
Brock lived through the Great Depression, saw the day when women were granted the right to vote, and was married the same year Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse appeared for the first time on screen.
Today, on the eve of 100, she still has her nails done weekly and told a guest, when asked about her happiest moment in life, "I have been happy my whole life."
What keeps her going and looking so fresh?
"We always credit Grandma's beauty and youthfulness to her Hungarian genes, Pond's Cold Cream that she's used every night since she was a teenager and good living," said granddaughter Susie O'Connell. "She loves black coffee, real butter, chocolate and bacon. Her favorite drink is Dr. Pepper, believe it or not! I got Dr. Pepper to write her a birthday letter."
Saturday, family from Tennessee, New Jersey, South Carolina, Connecticut, and California as well as Atlanta will join Brock at 119 Chops for a family birthday celebration. There will be five generations present, O'Connell said.
Holli Deal Bragg maybe reached at 912-489-9414.