Surrounded by friends and five generations of her family, Grace Stevens dined and did a little dancing at her 104th birthday party.
Stevens celebrated her birthday Feb. 22 at Magnolias of Myrtle Beach, where she has lived for about two years.
She gives God, ice cream and lots of chocolates credit for her longevity.
“I have a great love for God and everything that he’s given me,” she said. “I never think of dying. I only think of living, and I only think of the happy times. A laugh a day makes you feel good. I live to be laughing and in a good mood.”
Never miss a local story.
Her son, Donald Grant of Myrtle Beach, said she has always been a fantastic mother.
His wife, Peggy Jean Grant, said Stevens has been a fabulous mother-in-law.
“She’s so much fun and nothing gets her down,” Peggy Jean said.
Stevens has also been a good grandmother to her three granddaughters, who have given her four great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
Peggy Jean said that Stevens has shown her love for her family in many ways over the years.
“I only had the one son and he meant so much to me that I put a lot of my lifetime into being close to him,” Stevens said.
Donald and Peggy Jean lived in a house that was back to back with Stevens’ in Pennsylvania. Stevens later lived with them. They all moved to Myrtle Beach about 17 years ago.
Much of Stevens’ life has faded from her memory, but she still remembers some things from her youth.
She recalls riding streetcars or walking up the hills in her hometown when she was growing up. She still has the urge to get out and walk.
Her family can fill in the parts of her life that are missing from her memory, as Donald does when he talks about her life.
When she was a girl, one of her brothers got the first radio in her hometown of Monongahela, Pa. He built an outside work area and an antenna that reached about 75 feet in the air. It was a community gathering place where people listened mainly to sports broadcasting from the first Pittsburg radio station about 25 miles away.
She has outlived five brothers and three husbands. Her first husband, Donald’s father, drowned while fishing in Lake Erie when Donald was only 3 years old.
After that, she went to Oklahoma and spent some time with an uncle on Chickasaw Indian territory.
During World War II, she was a Rosie, working first for Douglas Aircraft and then at Tinker Field, now Tinker Air Force Base. She made parts for C-47s, packed parachutes, and cleaned and treated the leather jackets of pilots.
One of the highlights of her time at Tinker was when the plane of the legendary ace James “Jimmy” Doolittle was there for repairs.
She has also worked for a telephone company, at Montgomery Ward, and as a juvenile probation officer.
She comes from a long line of patriots and people who lived long lives.
“Her family has fought in every war since the American Revolution,” Donald said.
At 75, she married her third husband, a college professor, and lived in California.
She said she never smoked or drank alcoholic drinks, but always ate anything she wanted, including a lot of ice cream and chocolate, and she cooked with lard.
When asked what advice she gives to others, she said, “I tell them to enjoy life while they can, and to have friends who like to do the same things they do.”
Stevens still looks toward the future.
“I don’t consider anything closed. I always think, tomorrow it will be open again,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m going to die, I feel like, what’s tomorrow going to bring? I love my family, and I want to live to be with them.”