Party spotlight shines on humble 100-year-old

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Martha Mabe celebrates her 100th birthday during an open house at the Madison County Senior Center in London.

(Posted May 24, 2017)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Martha Mabe’s family knows how much their matriarch dislikes having a fuss made over her.

“She has always been very humble and has never looked to bring attention to herself,” said son Dave Mabe.

Yet knowing this fact, they could not help themselves from making a fuss as her birthday neared.

“I mean, it’s not every day one turns 100,” said son Robert Mabe.

So, Martha’s children and grandchildren stealthily planned two celebrations in her honor. When everything was set, they broke the news to Martha.

“She wasn’t too pleased but we told her this day called for a celebration,” said Dave with a laugh.

The first celebration took place May 17, her actual day of birth, at the family-owned shop, Mabe’s Clothing and Athletic Apparel on Main Street in downtown London. Though many came out to celebrate the woman who has lived nearly all of her life in London, Martha tried to stay out of the limelight.

“I had some work to finish up,” she told relatives when she was discovered at the sewing machine working on a letterman’s jacket.

Three days later, the second birthday party was held at the Madison County Senior Citizens Center. Unlike most guests of honor, Martha arrived early and watched as her grandchildren decorated the large multi-purpose room.

“I saw them set up all these streamers, all these balloons and all of these long tables for my birthday party,” she said. “And as I was watching them do this and put all of this hard work into this event, I felt a sense of disappointment for them because I was so sure no one else was going to come.”

Much to her surprise, the community did come out to celebrate her birthday. A steady flow of people stopped by to honor her during the two-hour event.

“I am so shocked by this turnout,” she said.

Becky McCoy said that reaction just about sums up her mother—always underestimating herself and the impact she has made on this community.

“She means so much to the people here,” McCoy said.

Each attendee had a story to share and a kind word to say. They spoke of Martha’s tireless work ethic, her business acumen, and her keen fashion sense.

“She always looks great,” gushed one resident waiting in line to speak with the guest of honor.

They also spoke of her sound advice, her willingness to give second chances, and her talent with meal preparation.

“She made the best Dixie Burgers,” said Jon Brill about Mabe’s Drive-In, a car hop/restaurant Martha owned and operated in the 1950’s.

The most common refrain from guests was how highly they thought of Martha Mabe, the unassuming woman who enjoys restoring cars, sewing, gardening and staying busy in the community she loves.

Though Martha admits that she was surprised by all of the praise from the community, her relatives say it did not surprise them to hear those words one bit.

“She would be the last person to know how extraordinarily amazing she is,” said grandson Robert Charles Mabe.

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