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Glendale celebrates its 90-plus residents, including two centenarians, at birthday bash

Transported back to the days of USO shows in the 1940s, 27 senior residents, all over the age of 90, enjoyed lunch, music and birthday cake at the city's 14th annual "90-Plus Birthday Party" held Thursday at the Adult Recreation Center in Glendale.

The main entertainment featured the Los Angeles Muses, who wore 1940s-style dresses and performed before roughly 70 people in attendance on a USO-decorated stage to help boost the morale of "military troops" during World War II.

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The celebration is tied to the city of Glendale's elderly nutrition program at its four community centers, which plans and serves themed meals throughout the year on occasions such as Valentine's Day and other holidays, said Julie Anne Leviant, supervisor of the Adult Recreation Center.

"We wanted to do something to honor the immense, growing population of seniors that are 90 years or older because there are so many out there that are living long, long lives," Leviant said.

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Of the 27 residents celebrating their 90-plus birthdays, two recently reached the centenarian milestone.

Robert McTaggart, 100, moved to Glendale from Rochester, Minn., in 1952 as part of a job relocation while working for the Social Security Administration. He first visited the Adult Recreation Center about 15 years ago and attends classes in Tai Chi and lip-reading for the hard of hearing.

McTaggart said he remembers the appeal of a once-quieter Glendale, where there wasn't much industry, he said.

"They used to call [Glendale] the bedroom of Los Angeles," McTaggart said. "Now, when I go downtown, all I see are high-rise apartment buildings going up. Every time I make a trip downtown, it's like I'm in a different city.

While serving in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1941,McTaggart's unit was absorbed into the U.S. Navy to help with the war effort after the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. After 12 years, he left military service and used the Montgomery G.I. Bill toward college.

"I was very glad to be in the service," he said. "I remember the USO events when I was a serviceman. We used to see them at some of the transportation centers. [Today's event] brings back memories."

Josefa Rivero, the second centenarian at the celebration, came directly to Glendale from Veracruz, Bolivia, 33 years ago. She was joined by her daughter Mary Rivero, who helped share her story, as Josefa Rivero does not speak English.

She recalled her years in Bolivia.

"There wasn't electricity or sanitary water, so they used to pick up the water from a lagoon," Mary Rivero said, translating for her mother. "The way of transportation was basically walking or cow carriages. She worked on the fields a lot."

When she first arrived in the United States, Josefa Rivero said she loved everything, fascinated most by the number of gardens and the massive size of the freeways. She added that she was also amazed when she finally got to see the ocean.

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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