My friend Marie Elizabeth Wiegenstein O'Connor is turning 99 on September 10th. Yes, ninety nine. It's not just the accomplishment of grazing the century mark. Marie is one of the kindest, funniest, and downright pleasant people I've had the pleasure of knowing. She is a rare bird, a genuinely good soul. She's had quite a life. She and her husband lived in France as part of the reconstruction following WWII and traveled Europe extensively in a time when most Americans still spent most of their lives in hometowns. She raised three sons, is a proud grandmother, and never misses Mass. When she tells stories of the years she spent living out west or growing up on her family's farm, the margins of her stories are peppered with modest references to history that launched many a Google search.
Looking back at history, the world we know today has grown up with her:
1918: WWI ends; the Spanish influenza pandemic; the execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family; first documented interracial jazz recording made;
1928: Fleming discovers Penicillin; Hirohito becomes Emperor of Japan; first regularly scheduled television programming aired; Mickey Mouse makes debuts in Plane Crazy.
1938: The Anschluss; Kristallnacht; Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia; Atatürk dies; the ballpoint pen patented; Orson Welles causes chaos with War of the Worlds radio broadcast.
1948: Mahatma Gandhi murdered; establishment of the State of Israel; World Health Organization founded; Italian film The Bicycle Thieves released.
1958: Treaty of Rome signed establishing the European Economic Community (later the EU); 5,000 U.S. Marines land in Beirut; Radio Rebelde begins broadcasting from the Sierra Maestra in Cuba; Hitchcock's Vertigo.
1968: Dr. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert Kennedy assassinated; Baathist take power in Iraq; Tet Offensive; Nixon elected President; Cash's Folsom Prison Blues and The Beatles White Album.
1978: First IVF baby born; Cardinal Karol Wojtyla becomes Pope John Paul II; Camp David Accords signed; Steve Martin premieres song King Tut on SNL.
1988: Soviet Union begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; Halabja; Iran-Iraq War ends; Hawking's A Brief History of Time.
Congratulations and much love, Marie. Here's to your 100th candle next year.