Ce­cil res­i­dent cel­e­brates 105th birth­day



— In the year of Hazel Lay­ton’s birth, the United States was a dif­fer­ent place. A teenage Babe Ruth was at­tend­ing a Bal­ti­more re­form school, the RMS Ti­tanic was still among the great­est ocean lin­ers in the world, and the av­er­age Amer­i­can man made about $700 per an­num.

That year was 1911 and Lay­ton, a life­long Ce­cil County res­i­dent, lived through it. On Tues­day, she cel­e­brated her 105th birth­day at St. Stephen’s Epis­co­pal Church in Ear­leville.

Before and dur­ing the sur­prise cel­e­bra­tion, which be­gan at 10:30 a.m. as the main event of the Lower Ce­cil County Se­nior Ci­ti­zens’ weekly lunch meet­ing, a com­mon theme formed: not only do Lay­ton’s friends love and ad­mire her, but many con­sider her the sharpest among them.


“She’s the smartest one in the room,” said Sally Gins­burg, an 83-year-old Ear­leville res­i­dent who’s known Lay­ton for about 20 years. “She can still play bridge, which is special for some­one her age.”

Lay­ton was born in Abing­don, Mary­land, and she at­tended the Tome School. In 1933, five years before it was razed, she grad­u­ated from the Homeo­pathic Hospi­tal in Wilm­ing­ton. Eigh­teen pres­i­dents have served dur­ing her life­time.

She ar­rived yes­ter­day after most of the roughly 70 peo­ple had set­tled into the church’s cafe­te­ria, and as a man wheeled her into the room a buzz ran through those watch­ing. She wore a vi­brant flo­ral shirt, a re­flec­tive sil­ver neck­lace and ear­ring set and had ev­i­dently ap­plied red lip­stick that matched her fin­ger­nail pol­ish. The pink rib­bon on her shirt read “Birth­day Girl!”

“Did you know to­day was your birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, that ev­ery­one was com­ing for your birth­day?” Rose Kle­vis, a mem­ber of the se­nior group, asked Lay­ton.

“No, I didn’t,” she said, and it was un­clear if this was meant as a joke or in gen­uine sur­prise.

Lower Ce­cil County Se­niors Pres­i­dent Anne Breen, a 73-year-old from White Crys­tal Beach, be­gan the lunch with a few brief house­keep­ing notes, before get­ting to the heart of the oc­ca­sion.

“The only an­nounce­ment I have is [that] to­day is Hazel’s birth­day,” Breen said.

Sev­eral of Lay­ton’s for­mer neigh­bors from Hazel­moor, a wa­ter­front com­mu­nity in Ear­leville, came to cel­e­brate the birth­day. Joanne and Tom Shaine, who lived be­hind her for about 20 years before she moved last Septem­ber, said she is a woman of faith who would al­ways pro­vide a good laugh.

“She’s one of a kind,” Tom said. “You just don’t see peo­ple her age that are that fully alert. She’s had a very good life.”

Oth­ers in that neigh­bor­hood, like Al Lehmicke, who lived next to Lay­ton, spoke about the last­ing im­pact her wis­dom has had on his life.

“Once, she said to me, ‘When I look out there at the bay, I re­al­ize it’s dif­fer­ent ev­ery­day. It never looks the same,’ Lehmicke said. “Those words have stuck to me to this day.”


Ear­leville res­i­dent Hazel Lay­ton cel­e­brated her 105th birth­day at St. Stephen’s Epis­co­pal Church on Tues­day.


Beth Pauley, 75, and Sally Gins­burg, 83, smile dur­ing Hazel Lay­ton’s 105th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion on Tues­day.

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