Gainesville resident Marion Broadaway has officially joined the exclusive 1 percent of the world population’s centenarians.
Broadaway and a smattering of family and friends brushed off the COVID-19 pandemic and gathered for a masked, socially distanced 100th birthday party Friday afternoon at Oak Hammock, a retirement center at the University of Florida. Broadaway came decked with a crown and a 100th birthday sash around her.
“I’ve always said that if everyone were like my mother, the world would be a much happier place,” said Marion’s son Dannah.
Broadaway was born on February 5, 1921 in Lexington, Massachusetts. Since then she has lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars. She has seen the invention of antibiotics, television and radio, the internet, and smartphones.
Broadaway recalls spending her childhood days with her five siblings and tending the family’s livestock. She has a love for classical music and showtunes and says one of her proudest moments being the time she won a silver cup in a piano competition at 9 years old.
Broadaway studied English in college and married her husband, Rufus, soon after graduating. They had three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Rufus was an accomplished surgeon and helped to start the medical school at the University of Miami, while Marion was a kindergarten teacher and homemaker.
The Broadaways were among the founding members of Oak Hammock when they moved to Gainesville from North Carolina in 2004. They were married for almost 75 years before he died at age 95. Marion says the secret to a long, happy marriage is “keeping your mouth shut.”
Broadaway said her most shocking accomplishment was the time she hiked from Kathmandu to the base camp at Mount Everest, which was about a 150-mile trek. She remembers drinking black tea with yak butter and being treated for a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in a tiny hospital with less than ideal amenities.
“It took a month to get there,” she said. “There was no bathroom and no heat, and nothing but dirt and stone.”
Despite the obstacles Broadway faced on her trip, she says she “wouldn’t change a thing.”
For anyone hoping to live a life as long and fulfilling as Marion’s, she offers this advice: “Listen to your mother.”