As many as 100 family and friends gathered at the Countryside Community Center in Owego on Sept. 7 to celebrate Tioga County resident, Darlene Hill’s birthday. And, an extra-special birthday at that; Darlene turned 100 years old on Sept. 6.
Choosing to show up fashionably late to the party, Darlene, a resident at the nearby Long Meadows Apartments, “drove” over to the Community Center and made a grand entrance by riding in on her motorized wheelchair. Guests knew she had arrived when she honked the horn a few times. The scooter, decked out in festive streamers and decorations, also featured her name on a rear bumper sign that resembled a license plate.
Darlene greeted guests at the front entrance to the dining room, and shared with some, “I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Ed Ripic, one of Darlene’s grandchildren, remarked, “She had trouble sleeping because she was so excited about the party.”
Darlene chuckled as she told one friend, “I’ll probably stay in bed for the next three days.”
Darlene Warren Hill was born Sept. 6, 1919 in Strawberry Point, Iowa. Darlene’s family, including a brother and sister, moved to Vestal Center in 1920, so she calls upstate New York her home.
A 1937 graduate of Vestal High School, Darlene met her husband, Delmar Barton Hill while a student there. The couple, married for over 50 years, tied the knot in June 1939 at the Vestal Center Methodist Church. The Hill’s welcomed two children, a son Darrel in 1942, and a daughter Diane in 1945.
The Hill’s moved to Newark Valley in 1967 where they operated a horse farm and sold farm equipment. Delmar passed away in February 1990.
When asked the secret to her longevity, Darlene paused for a moment, looked around the room at her family and friends, and then replied, “Family.”
One family member she misses dearly, her daughter, remains in her heart. Darlene explained, “I hope there is a cure for cancer in the future,” adding, “I lost my daughter, Diane, to cancer.”
Ripic shared that Darlene enjoyed playing the organ, particularly hymns, as a member of the Newark Valley Methodist Church, and said, “Fifteen years ago she was like the Energizer Bunny, always so busy.”
A previous volunteer at the Countryside Community Center, too, Darlene remarked, “I was on the ‘Scoop’ staff,” which she explained is the center’s newsletter.
Today, Darlene said she has slowed down quite a bit. Family and friends help with errands and take her to appointments. The family is grateful for Meals on Wheels, which is a consistent source of healthy meals.
Darlene does get out from time to time. In fact, on her actual birthday, September 6, twenty-plus family members spanning four generations accompanied Darlene to a restaurant in Vestal where she enjoyed a favorite meal, an order of ribs.
Darlene’s family has grown to five grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
Back at the party, a pianist played “Happy Birthday” as guests sang along, followed by the cutting of a cake complete with a stamped image of Darlene. Guests also enjoyed viewing “The Life and Times of Darlene Hill,” a hand-written timeline of current events and special occasions during Darlene’s first 100 years, such as the fact that Darlene has lived during eighteen U.S. Presidencies.
Ed Ripic commented that many call Darlene Hill, “Grandma Happy,” and perhaps another one of her longevity secrets is, “She has always been happy with whatever she had.”