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DeKalb woman celebrates 101st birthday

Published: Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Bursaw –
Octavia Deatherage (right), who recently turned 101, talks Thursday with her younger sister Opal Brown, 97, while the two wait for a birthday celebration to begin at Heritage Woods in DeKalb.

DeKALB – For Octavia Deatherage, there is not much difference from one birthday to the next after celebrating 101 of them.

“Seems about the same as it did a couple years ago,” Deatherage said on her 101st birthday Thursday.

“I still feel old and feeble,” she added with a laugh.

Deatherage celebrated the milestone at Heritage Woods in DeKalb with friends and family who came out to enjoy live music, cake from Sweet Dreams and original paintings created by Deathrage.

There have been two keys to the Arkansas native’s longevity: faith and family. She said seeing her great-grandchilden, who attended Thursday’s celebration, always lifts her spirits. She still makes sure to go to church every Sunday and have lunch with her family after.

“You just have to learn to take what comes and thank the Lord,” she said. “I don’t know how people can face life without the good Lord.”

Deanna Sexton, Deatherage’s 69-year-old daughter, said Deatherage’s parents would have been surprised to know their daughter made it to 101 after she was diagnosed as an invalid child with spinal complications.

But Sexton’s mother not only overcame those early odds, she still was living in her own home up until July, when she moved into the assisted-living facility.

“She’s been a wonderful role model,” Sexton said. “We still spend a lot of time together and she always has something to look forward to.”

Deatherage’s energy is contagious, said Heritage Woods Administrator Sylvia McGee, who noted everyone is shocked to learn Deatherage is 101. McGee said Deatherage is strongly independent and always smiling.

“It’s an honor for all of our staff to know her and hear her stories,” McGee said. “It’s definitely a special occasion and a huge milestone.”

Deatherage’s son Steve said there was another secret to the longevity to go with a strong family and faith foundation – genetics. He had proof for his theory as Octavia Deatherage’s “baby” sister at 97 years old attended the celebration and displayed the same energy as her older sister.

“I’m grateful to be able to pretend for a while my mother is immortal,” Steve Deatherage said. “I’m just glad she is healthy and really, really enjoys life.”

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