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‘I don’t feel 100’

Centenarian celebrates her life with friends

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 23, 2016

 Allen blows out candles on her birthday cake Feb. 16 at the McAuley Life Center retirement home, 28750 W. 11 Mile Road.

Allen blows out candles on her birthday cake Feb. 16 at the McAuley Life Center retirement home, 28750 W. 11 Mile Road.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

FARMINGTON HILLS — Sister Marjorie Elizabeth Allen has had quite a life. 

When the McAuley Life Center nun was born in 1916, 28th U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was in office. A 1916 Model T Ford cost $490, and the Titanic had sunk just four years prior. 

A bit has changed in the last 100 years, and the centenarian’s birthday was celebrated Feb. 16 at the McAuley Life Center retirement home, 28750 W. 11 Mile Road. 

Surrounded by dozens of friends, former colleagues, students and her cousin, Allen sat front and center under two sets of pink “100” balloons. 

“I’ve learned so much over the years. I don’t feel 100,” she said as music played and people celebrated around her. “I don’t have any basis for comparison. I’ve never been to one (a 100th-birthday party) before.”

The demure, quick-witted Farmington Hills resident taught Latin at Mercy High School and at McAuley, where she has lived since retirement. She served for over 60 years as an educator in Catholic schools.

Allen belongs to the Farmington Hills-based Sisters of Mercy, a Roman Catholic group of women who take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service. 

As an only child, Allen grew up in Vermontville, about 30 miles from Lansing, before becoming a nun in her 20s.

“It seemed like a good idea,” she said of becoming a nun. 

A row of pastel baby sweaters hung behind Allen, sweaters she had knitted, along with mittens and more, to donate to the store inside McAuley.

The birthday celebration literally kicked off with Rockin’ Rockettes, a line-dance group, who shimmied, twirled and danced to several numbers in honor of Allen.

The event also featured a McAuley Life Center proclamation declaring Feb. 16 as “Marjorie Elizabeth Allen Day.”

One partygoer said she felt privileged and blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate this “very tremendous” occasion with Allen, who was then crowned the Queen of Hearts with a tiara for her loving nature.

Allen said that while growing up, one thing that stood out to her was how much she and her family moved because father was in agriculture.

“We moved quite regularly, every four to five years,” she said.

Also, because she came from a family of schoolteachers, she didn’t know that there was any other profession, so she became a teacher and she hasn’t looked back.

Allen’s friends and attendees reminisced about past times with her, and about her humor.

Allen brought up fun times with one friend.

“I had a friend named Shirley, and when I was younger I learned the 23rd Psalm: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’”

She smiled, saying she thought her friend Shirley would follow her because her name sounds like “surely.”

McAuley Center Activities Director Marcia Kirk said after the birthday celebration that Allen and the other sisters are like family.

“I think Sister Marjorie was taken aback, that she was actually really surprised,” Kirk said of the event. “I think she was up for this. I approached her that we were going to do a big celebration, (and) she was kind of hesitant because she is a very quiet, subdued person, and she just said, ‘I’m going to go with it.’”

Kirk added that with Allen being who she is, she didn’t say too much during the event.

“She is so caring,” Kirk said. “She is a loving person. I love her. Working here has been a blessing to me.”

Bellaire resident Steve Shane, 66, Allen’s cousin, said she is kind and friendly. 

“Her grandfather and my great-grandfather were twin brothers. They were the son of Civil War veterans,” he said.

“She has been a fountain of information about our family because there are so many things that I didn’t know until I started visiting,” he said.

Shane said that when he turns 100, he will probably not be as charming as Allen.

“I take things too seriously,” he said.