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Faith, Family, and Coconut Cake: Secrets to Longevity

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She is amazing – so sweet and so dear, a real miracle.

HOP nurse Mary Dillon, RN

When asked about her secret to longevity, 106-year-old Margie Brown credits “family, faith, and coconut cake.” When this young-at-heart woman came under the care of Hospice of the Piedmont (HOP) in April 2017, it was her third hospice admission. She was admitted once before while living in Florida, where she lived with her late husband after retiring; this was her second admission to HOP.

HOP nurse Mary Dillon, RN, recalls providing care to Mrs. Brown from 2009-2014 when she was under HOP’s care previously. “I went to her 100th birthday party in 2011 and her 104th in 2015,” said Mary in September while celebrating her latest milestone at the Hospice House. “Now I’ve also attended her 106th celebration. She is amazing – so sweet and so dear, a real miracle.”

A resident of Charlottesville by way of South Carolina, Georgia, New York, and Asheville, NC—where she attended nursing school—Margie was the eldest of 10 children, seven of whom lived to adulthood. Margie outlived every one of her siblings. In 1939, she married Kenneth Howard Brown, an advertising executive who worked in Manhattan. Mrs. Brown worked as a nurse while raising her three children with Kenneth in the Jackson Heights area of Queens, NY. When the children were young, the family made annual trips back to the South Carolina farm where Mrs. Brown had worked as a child feeding chickens and pigs, milking cows, and making butter. Her parents still lived on the farm then and everyone enjoyed a taste of the south and farm life. 

Throughout her life, Mrs. Brown has been a committed Christian. She remained active in her church as long as she was able—she even coordinated church wedding luncheons up until she was 85 years old. 

Mrs. Brown shared an apartment at an assisted living facility in Florida with her last surviving sister for six years after her husband passed away. While they both experienced memory loss, they enjoyed living together and did so until Margie’s sister died.

When Margie Brown hit her milestone 100th birthday in 2011, she had one big wish: she wanted to be featured on the celebrations segment of the “Today” show and hear her name read aloud by Al Roker. Her daughter, Patricia (Pat) Graham, submitted the paperwork and the family waited. Mrs. Brown’s celebration was not chosen for her 100th birthday in 2011. When 2012 came, and Mrs. Brown’s 101st birthday, Pat tried again. Again, she was not selected. So it went, year after year. In fall of 2017, with her late-September 106th birthday approaching, Mrs. Brown and her family’s wish to hear her featured on the “Today” show was stronger than ever. Her care team at the Hospice House began investigating ways to help make her wish come true. A few calls to local news media contacts yielded a contact at NBC Universal: the “Today” show birthday producer. And so, just a few short weeks after Margie Brown turned 106 years old, her 100th birthday wish was finally realized when Al Roker read her name aloud on his celebrations segment.

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