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A birthday celebration

July 28, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Image courtesy Grace Ridge Retirement Community

My mom used to tell me to never grow older. I didn’t listen. I was always excited about that next higher number and all the milestones associated with age: kindergarten, driver’s license, drinking.

After 21, there wasn’t much to get excited about, and as my optometrist reminds me at my annual checkup, my eyes have already peaked.

I can (in theory) do whatever I want. And yet, my days are pretty routine. It’s easy to take the days, months and years for granted without really living them. The same is true for birthdays. My dad doesn’t like to celebrate. It’s just another day, he says.

I refrained from celebrations. I bemoaned getting older, and the creaks my bones now make. I was prematurely curmudgeonly.  

Not Ruby Clodfelter, who turned 111 years old Tuesday, the same day as my birthday. Her birthday is an event not to be missed by those in Morganton, N.C. Grace Ridge Retirement Community also solicited well-wishes in the local newspaper and on social media. So far, Clodfelter has gotten more than 100 cards in the mail and 151 comments on Facebook, including:

“Happy birthday, Ruby! You’re an inspiration”

“Wow. Amazing and blessed just seeing you.”

 “Happy birthday Ruby, and may you be blessed with many more….”

“Happy birthday, Ruby. I want to be like you when I grow up.”

“She’s getting calls, she’s getting cards, and she’s loving it,” Evelyn Beaver, Life Enrichment Director at Grace Ridge, tells me.

Clodfelter also likes to party.

“She absolutely loves the birthday party,” Beaver says. “She just glows.”

The retirement community throws parties for all residents when they turn 100. But the party hasn’t stopped for Clodfelter. The community has thrown birthday parties for Cledfelter, and it’s a social event not to be missed. Beaver started getting calls a few weeks ago asking when the party would be.

WBTV reporter Kristen Hampton told Beaver she makes a note on her calendar each year to come see Clodfelter and file a story. Grace Ridge pulled all the stops for last year’s party and filled the community room with guests, including local media, the mayor and other dignitaries. Beaver says they tried to have a smaller party this year with chocolate cupcakes and punch after lunch.

“It didn’t work,” she says, laughing. “We still had a lot of guests.”

Each year, Beaver asks Clodfelter what’s the secret to a long life.

“Her response is generally the same: It’s just living and living well,” Beaver says. “Why can’t we all say that?”

Clodfelter never thought she would live to be this long, but why shouldn’t we live this way? Instead of hiding my birthday, I looked forward to it. I proudly wore my “birthday girl” pin. Ruby is my inspiration, and I count a shared birthdate with her among my blessings. If only I shared her genes and her ability to look so lovely in lavender. 


Nicole Stempak

Senior Editor

Nicole Stempak


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