SYCAMORE – For Marie McKenzie, the secret to a long life is sociability.
McKenzie, the first resident to live at Grand Victorian Meridian Senior Living in Sycamore when it opened in 2003, turned 100 years old Sunday. Organizers held a celebration for McKenzie on Monday with a big cake and Grand Victorian residents singing "Happy Birthday."
McKenzie said avoiding being alone all the time is one of the reasons why she is alive and well today. Her family visits her two to three times a week.
"I love my family very much, and I try to do the best I can for them," she said.
Family came as far away as Minnesota, California and the Philippines to be with the matriarch, who gets by with the help of a motorized scooter. Granddaughter Shelly McKenzie arrived after a 15-hour plane ride from the Philippines.
"I love my grandma so much," she said. "For my son to know a great-grandmother is incredible."
The McKenzie family had a big dinner Sunday and reminisced.
"A lot of memories have to do with fishing," said her son, Jerry McKenzie.
McKenzie's daughter, Marcia, made a timeline of McKenzie's life which had pictures along with captions of the important historical events which took place that year.
McKenzie was born in 1913, when Woodrow Wilson was president. She graduated from high school in 1930, the same year Pluto was discovered. In 1932, she graduated from Northern Illinois University and got her first teaching job.
McKenzie married in 1935 but was not hired back from her teaching job because married female teachers were not allowed back to teach in case they had a baby, McKenzie said.
She spent most of her time being a farmer's wife, feeding farm animals and taking care of the eggs that were laid, she said.
"It was a busy life," McKenzie said.
Her life hasn't come without its hardships. McKenzie has had cancer and heart surgery and experienced a medical emergency which almost prevented her from having a 100th birthday.
On her 98th birthday, McKenzie was celebrating with family when she had a heart attack, she said. She went to the hospital and refused to have surgery.
"I've had so much surgery. I didn't want to take it anymore," she said. "The doctor said, 'I've decided. You're going to have surgery right away or else I won't see you tomorrow.'
"He gave me surgery, and I turned out fine."
A caged bird that lives at Grand Victorian was chirping throughout McKenzie's birthday celebration.
"The bird is singing for me," McKenzie said.