Charlotte turns 102 with friends – The Ukiah Daily Journal
At a certain age, and then forever, birthdays stop losing their luster and serve no purpose other than to wear us down.
The last thing anyone over 50 wants is a party; A Hallmark card is more than enough. Birthdays are for 10 year olds who want to go to Disneyland.
Tell a 50-year-old friend that you plan to take her to Disneyland for her birthday and all that will happen is that you will lose a friend.
With that as a prelude, a small group arrived recently in the late afternoon at Charlotte Blackwelder’s home armed with a chocolate birthday cake, a bouquet of flowers, and a few too many candles for her to blow out.
Charlotte is 102 years old.
If anyone has ever earned the right to be completely and utterly disinterested in celebrating their birthday, Charlotte is that person. The idea that her last birthday would bring joy and excitement seemed unclear.
But Charlotte is Charlotte, you never know.
So they gathered from near and far to stand at its door, “near” West Smith Street, and the grounds of El Dorado Estates as the Far East. You might expect attendees from further afield, but the 102-year-old has a way of whittling guests down to a precious few.
Arlene Johnson gently pushed the front door open, and we gathered in a small horseshoe surrounding Charlotte at her dining room table.
She is pleased. with a great happiness. Her vibrant brown eyes are all twinkle, and she seems slightly puzzled by the cake, the bouquet, the card, and the (small) crowd gathered in her honor.
For many years Charlotte was a loyal and beloved “member” of the random dog walking group that gathered early in the morning at Todd Grove Park. (A pair of injuries have curtailed her long tours, at least for now.)
Our conversation today focuses initially on her old friends Millie the chihuahua, Rosie the black lab, a retriever named Poppy, and Boo the dachshund, as well as a few interloping humans. Everyone has gone to their reward except Bo; A body count is conducted every morning to see if any of Todd’s Grove’s usual human attendants have gone missing or been killed overnight.
Churro, a canine survivor and Charlotte’s beloved longtime companion, was happy to join the festive group that came to their home, in part because some visitors remembered to bring dog biscuits. Ken Edmonds blamed the local Lions Club for not being able to afford the candy.
A hearty version of the old “Happy Birthday” song was dutifully sung, a candle was lighted and easily extinguished, and all set to work: Charlotte loves cake, loves chocolate, and this was both.
The conversation escalated. She peppered Rod with questions about his shoe store and his plans for what’s next, wondered about State Street traffic and the condition of the Palace Hotel, was fascinated by the news of the Purple Tube being extended to Anton Stadium, and then returned to the anecdotes and goings-on among the Todd Grove dogs.
sharp? Clear? You wouldn’t want to discuss Charlotte in public. She doesn’t wear glasses, her hearing is better than mine, and she’s more articulate than any prominent politician you can name.
It exploded with “activity” 30 or 40 years ago, and has now achieved a calm not unlike that achieved by the late Queen Elizabeth. Charlotte is cheerful, elf, alert and entertaining. She (and Choro) live alone in a large old house deep in the west side of Ukiah, with the help of a highly competent part-time assistant, Camille, who loves Charlotte and also manages her life.
More cake anyone? Charlotte takes a second bite, perhaps because we force it during her dinner hour. Bonus and sincere birthday wishes are collected.
“Let’s do it again next year,” comes a suggestion, followed by “And a dozen more after that.”
Charlotte rolls her eyes, palms up and sighs, “Now, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.”
Happy birthday to you, Charlotte!