A raucous 108th birthday

If the joy of 108 years of life could be crammed into a single room it would look like this: children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, friends, decades’ worth of photographs, Martinelli’s apple cider and a cake covered in powder-blue icing.

“It was a thrill,” said Florence Tuckman of her 108th birthday celebration, which this week spanned three days and two cities, and attracted public officials such as Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian.

Born on Jan. 31, 1903, Tuckman is believed to be the oldest resident of the city of Glendale, where she has lived since 1940. And she remains an active member of the community — the centenarian plays cards on a daily basis at her residence, Elms Convalescent Hospital, and makes frequent outings with family members.

“It is an honor to be a part of her life,” said Patty Schwade, director of social services at Elms Convalescent Hospital in Glendale. “In the nine years that I have known her, not once have I ever heard her say anything negative. She is always so cheerful. There is something about her that radiates calmness.”

Tuckman’s birthdays have evolved into quite the occasion. In recent years celebrations included a trip to Disneyland, a casino-themed bash at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club and a day at the Santa Anita racetrack.

On Monday, her 108th birthday party in Glendale drew dozens of friends, civic leaders and media. It was preceded by a weekend gathering of 80 family members at a private home in La Cañada Flintridge. Everyone wanted to know the same thing — Tuckman’s formula for a long and healthy life.

“Be happy, that covers a lot of sins,” Tuckman said, grinning from ear to ear.

A first-generation American — her father immigrated in 1895 from what is now present-day Armenia — Tuckman and her three siblings were raised in Philadelphia. The family was hit hard by the Great Depression, and she helped to keep them afloat by working as a hospital administrator.

She met her future husband, Leo Tuckman, in 1932 on a trip to California. An astrologer, he predicted she would marry in four years. In order to make his prophecy come true, he proposed by mail in 1936.

They moved to a house on Riverdale Avenue in Glendale in 1940. Leo ran a fish market on Wilson Avenue for many years, and later shifted into real estate. The couple raised two children, Joyce and Lawrence.

“They lived very healthy,” said daughter Joyce Griffith, 71. “They never ate out; she mowed the lawn until she was a 90 years old with a hand mower. She doesn’t smoke. She made my dad smoke outside.”

Tuckman continued to live on her own until the age of 99. She still has perfect vision, and perfect teeth, and continues to eat yogurt on a daily basis — a life-long habit.

Family and friends feed on her cheerful spirit, and decade-old stories, they said.

“I really like to talk to her and ask about different times, mostly about the ‘60s because I love the Beatles,” said great-granddaughter Drew Nichols, 13.

And they are already looking forward to next year’s celebration.

“We are so proud of her,” said Tuckman’s son-in-law, David Griffith. “She is such an inspiration to us all. She is a motivational force for hundreds of people in her family…She has made a big difference in all of our lives.”

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