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.