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Fun, fizz, Firebird: Edith Franklin turns 100

She never goes to doctors, drinks nothing but soda, and still drives her 1986 Pontiac Firebird.

Tuesday was Edith Franklin's day as she celebrated her 100th birthday with 200 friends and acquaintances at the Theodora Jackson Adult Center, one of five community centers sponsored by the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults, Inc.

On Tuesday afternoon, the center held a birthday party for all its members who celebrate birthdays in January and February. Member Jim Snead said birthday parties are usually held once a month, but the inclement weather prevented one from being held in January.

"Our world is full of wonderful things," said Snead, referring to the occasion of getting together to celebrate another year of life.

While members were very vocal in celebration of the events, they were less so about their ages.

Moderator Diane Fergusson decided to honor the members present whose ages were closest to 100. But when she counted down from 99 to 68, only three people stood up.

"Was nobody born here?" she asked the crowd.

It was not a quiet party, though, as loud music and dancing preceded the birthday ceremony in the center's cafeteria. Snead said several hundred people eat breakfast or lunch at the cafeteria each weekday.

While about 20 birthdays were actually being celebrated, the attention was focused on Franklin, whose birthday was on Jan. 9.

"I have never had a day like this," said Franklin, a Bronx native who has lived in Jamaica for the last 20 years.

Franklin was honored by the Queens Chapter of the American Red Cross for serving as a volunteer nurse in the U.S. Navy during World War I.

"We thank you for your dedicated service to human life," said Ximena Rua-Merkin, the director of the Queens Chapter.

Franklin told the crowd she still plays the piano and drives her car to visit relatives in Connecticut. When someone yelled out asking what the secret to longevity was, she responded "don't go to doctors."

Helen Summer, a registered nurse who often spends time in the center, said Franklin's true secret is her positive attitude and outlook.

Summer also said senior centers such as this are integral parts of the community, keeping senior citizens actively engaged in life.

"There is no place like a senior center. This place is really a life-saver," said Summer.

Franklin also described the center as a haven where she goes for much of her socializing. She said her son and daughter both are battling diabetes and are often preoccupied with their own lives.

"Never in my 100 years have I been in the company of such wonderful people," Franklin said.

She said like other institutions in society, racial tensions exist in many senior centers in the borough. But not at the 165th Street Jackson Adult center, she said.

JSPOA is a non-profit organization of professional staff and volunteers partially funded by the city's department for the aging. It services more than 5,000 older adults each year, primarily in southeast Queens.

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