Danville woman celebrates 111th birthday

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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) -- At Stratford Rehabilitation Center , birthdays are celebrated frequently.

"This is probably my fourth or fifth one that I've done for her,” Kim Holley, activities director for Stratford, said of resident Avicia Thorpe.

Aging isn't usually something people like to talk about, but it is when you're about to turn 111 years old.

"That's when you were 105 - you were a youngster then,” a family member said to Thorpe.

"My birthday is today!” exclaimed the birthday girl.

Thorpe was born April 16 1908, in Danville.

"You know where the School Mill Cotton Mill is? I was born right there, behind that cotton mill," she said.

She has seen 19 presidents take office, both world wars, and the civil rights movement. The list seems to be never ending.

"It's weird to say that 111 years old is young, but she really is, she's young at heart,” said Melinda Lawson, Thorpe’s great-great-grandniece.

More than three decades of her life was spent teaching English. Poetry is something she still cherishes and can recite.

"I have been traveling life's highway for a long long time, you see. I am happy indeed -- I can breathe and use my hands and feet," Thorpe recited from memory.

"A lot of the residents here, she actually taught in school, so they all come visit her," said Holley. Everyone, when they come in, they want to meet Ms. Thorpe,”

Most visitors want to know something Thorpe has been answering for several years now. What's the secret?

"I lived the best I could all these years," she said, "trying to take care of myself, and the rest of it is up to God."

It's only fitting her birthday song ends with three words that sum up her life: "May God bless you."