OCEANSIDE, Calif. >> In 1912, Oreo cookies, Cracker Jack and the Girl Scouts were born. So was Dorothy “Dottie” Coleman, who marked her 106th birthday April 3 in Oceanside, Calif.
Coleman was guest of honor at a birthday luncheon hosted by members of the local Kiwanis Club, who have become like a second family to the centenarian since she first volunteered her services as club pianist in 2012.
To kick off the festivities, club past president Jerry Mason coaxed Coleman into playing her favorite song, the 1954 classic “Fly Me to the Moon.”
When asked afterward why she liked the song so much, she quipped that the moon is one of the few places she has yet to visit.
Although she has traveled to Africa, India and Australia in her later years, Coleman has been slowing down since breaking both hips in the past five years.
Eighteen months ago, she gave up her longtime home in Lake San Marcos and moved in with her daughter, Pat Coleman. Although she was just over a bout with pneumonia, Coleman was in high spirits Tuesday.
“This is a wonderful day and it’s a wonderful feeling that so many nice people have shown me so much kindness over the years,” she said.
When asked her secrets to a long life, she answered heredity — her great-grandmother had 12 children and lived well into her 90s — doing everything in moderation and a positive attitude.
“Growing up in the country with fresh air and open space have something to do with it,” she said.
Born Dorothy Jones, she was the youngest of three children. After attending a teacher’s college in Baltimore, Dorothy got a job teaching grade-school children on a military base. Not long after that, she met her future husband, Lester Coleman, at a dance.
The Colemans married in 1934 and were together 62 years until his death in 1996.
In her 80s and 90s, Coleman remained active, traveling the world, taking classes in music and writing and volunteering her piano services to the Kiwanis club and a local youth orchestra.
At age 100, Coleman passed her driver’s exam for a four-year license extension, but a broken hip forced her to give up her license a year later. In recent years, Mason has volunteered his services as her driver and said he feels like the lucky one in the arrangement.
“I love to joke with her,” Mason said, “because she brightens up my life.”