MATTHEWS – When Gene Triplett told Olivia Morales that he was going to organize a birthday party in her honor, she wasn’t too keen on the idea.
“I had promised a party about a year ago, and she kept telling me she didn’t want a party,” Triplett said.
But Triplett was determined to throw a birthday party for Morales because after all, turning 100 years old is a milestone few get to celebrate.
About 55 people, including her son, Tito, from Arizona and other family members from New York, Florida and Pennsylvania, gathered for Morales’ upcoming birthday with a celebration on April 6 at the Polo Club Villas clubhouse. Many of the active adult community’s residents attended the celebration.
Morales turns 100 on April 16.
“Oh, it was terrific,” said Morales, who lives with her daughter, Aida Arak. “My son from Arizona came and my nieces from Pennsylvania came. I never thought I would reach 100.’’
Those gathered for the celebration enjoyed good food and even better fellowship during the afternoon party.
“She was really, really amazed at the number of people that came to the party,” Triplett said. “It was a semi-surprise party because they told her a few days before the party.’’
Morales arrived to the party in her “limousine,” which is actually the walker she uses to get around. And, boy, does she get around.
Morales has been a fixture at Polo Club Villas for almost 15 years, and she can often be found wheeling around the complex with her walker.
“They call her the sheriff because she watches out for everybody,” her daughter said.
Morales said her daily walks keep her body physically fit and her mind sharp. She enjoys watching soap operas and the news on television. She also reads the newspaper from front to back.
“I walk all the time, I mean every day,” Morales said. “I really know all of them (neighbors). God willing, I’m going to keep walking. I like to know what is going on.”
Morales was born in Lajas, Puerto Rico on April 16, 1919, the youngest of six siblings – five boys and one girl. Back then, births on the island were registered in the larger cities and a neighbor who was going into the city on his horse and buggy was asked to register Morales’ birth.
Morales’ parents wanted to name their daughter Aida but the neighbor forgot the name that was to be given. But, he remembered her mother’s name of Olivia and that is what he told authorities the baby’s name was.
Morales left Puerto Rico in 1926 and arrived in New York City after a long boat ride.
“I came by boat because there were no planes,” Morales said.
Morales eventually married and raised a family in New York. After her husband retired, the couple moved back to Puerto Rico. He passed away in 1977. She returned to Long Island, N.Y. in 1985 to live with her daughter, Aida. Morales and Arak then moved to Matthews in 2005 after Arak retired.
“The weather is terrific here,” Morales said. “No snow.’’