Palace Ray Roberts, a resident at Autumn Cove Assisted Living, celebrated his 100th birthday, Sunday, surrounded by five generations of family who came to wish him a special day.
In a suit and tie, and wearing a pin that said “I did it,” Roberts looked humbled, and at times, embarrassed by all the attention which included visits from Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart, Anniston Councilwoman Millie Harris and Calhoun County Probate Judge Alice Martin, who gave Roberts a T-shirt and led the singing of “Happy Birthday” as he blew out his birthday cake's candles.
“It’s something we’ve been planning for years,” said Andrea Miller, the marketing director at Autumn Cove. “We all knew this day was coming.”
And hopefully there will be a few more days like it in the not too distant future, Miller said, noting six of Autumn Cove’s residents are 95 or older, including one who will turn 99 this year.
Hitting the century mark is rare. In 2010, there were less than 600,000 centenarians living in the United States – less than 0.01 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census. The average life expectancy of a person living in the United States is 78. In Alabama, it’s just 75.
But if there’s a secret to living a long, healthy life, Roberts and his family said they don’t know what it is.
“Just God’s will,” said Laura Stegall, Roberts’ 67-year-old daughter. “That’s the only thing we can say it is.”
Stegall said her father always lived a clean and healthy lifestyle, and passionately attended church, where he often led the congregation, singing loudly. He’s still one of the loudest singers at Autumn Cove, and was joined by Judge Martin to sing his favorite song, “When We All Go To Heaven,” on Sunday.
But if there is no secret, Stegall said she hopes maybe there’s a gene he’s passed along to her.
“As long as I can be as healthy as him, I hope so,” Stegall said.
Roberts said he wished a big fuss hadn’t been made about his birthday, but said he was still happy to have reached such a milestone.
“Next, I hope to celebrate my 105th birthday, and when I get there, I’d like to celebrate my 110th birthday,” Roberts said. “But maybe that’ll be bragging.”
But according to his great granddaughter Kara Trantham, 110 might actually be a modest goal.
“He told us last night, ‘I can’t wait to see you at my next 100 birthday party,” she said. “I don’t think he plans on going anywhere for a while.”
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.