Somehow the candles got forgotten on Christine Eastwood’s birthday cake.
But that’s just as well – there wouldn’t have been room for 106 of them, anyway.
“When you think ‘106’ – what she has seen come and go,” said Maureen Mitchell, who was among a couple dozen friends and family members who gathered Saturday to celebrate Eastwood, who turns 106 on Sunday.
Born in June 14, 1909, Eastwood was a toddler when the Titanic sank in 1912.
She came of age in the time of the Great Depression. She helped raise her sister, Gloria, who was 15 years her junior and recently died.
She was a plane-spotting volunteer in Spokane, Wash., during World War II.
She followed her husband, LaVerne, all around the country for decades while he worked as an influential researcher and metallurgist. She managed all of their finances and household affairs so he would have nothing to worry about when he came home, said her nephew, Doug Mayo.
She was a charter member of the Spring Valley garden club in the 1970s, helping found the organization soon after she and her husband moved to Columbia.
Twenty-five years after LaVerne’s death, Eastwood continues to manage all of her own affairs, from paying her bills, to dealing with insurance companies and lawyers, to overseeing her stock investments.
She’s so busy taking care of business, she says, she hardly has time for hobbies.
“She is very independent,” said Julia Easley, who lives next door to Eastwood’s Spring Valley house and joined the garden club years ago at the behest of her friend and neighbor. “She’s one of the smartest people I know.”
When she was 12, Eastwood attended a 100th birthday party for a relative, but she said she “never thought anything about” one day growing that old herself.
For the past few years, Eastwood has lived in an assisted living facility, where her friends come for visits and where they gathered for her celebration Saturday.
Doug and Christine Mayo, Eastwood’s nephew and niece, say they grew up looking to Eastwood as a grandmotherly figure, they said. Eastwood never had children of her own, but the Mayos, who grew up in Baltimore, would visit the Eastwoods frequently and spend part of their summers wherever the Eastwoods were living at the time.
They recall Eastwood being an impeccable seamstress when she was younger, making clothes for Gloria and Christine, her namesake, and once sewing a beautiful puppet for one of Doug’s junior high school projects.
“She was just so good at everything she did that that kind of inspires you,” Christine Mayo said. “She’s a very strong woman, very confident, and I think you learn those kind of things (from her).”
Eastwood’s mind remains sharp and her memory clear. She reads the newspaper and does the crossword puzzle every morning, and she easily rattles off tales of her family history, complete with place names and dates.
Her family and friends started throwing birthday parties for Eastwood every year once she turned 100. That year, the Spring Valley garden club dedicated a pink flowering tree in the neighborhood in her honor.
“She’s made an impact on all of our lives, really,” Easley said.
Rather than growing less sharp and less hopeful with age, Eastwood remains bright, in touch and looking forward to the time she still has left.
“I don’t know where she gets the will to keep on,” Doug Mayo said. “I think she wants to break a record or something.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.