GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - All birthdays are special, but turning 100 is extra reason for a celebration. So the when the longest living resident at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport passed the century mark on Monday, the red carpet was rolled out.
"I'm speechless," said Marion Ritchie.
Navy and WWII Veteran Marion Ritchie was speechless for good reason. Her 100th birthday included a visit from Rep. Stephen Palazzo. Biloxi Mayor "FoFo" Gilich even offered a piano solo.
Ritchie, as she likes to be called, was welcomed to her party with a salute from women serving as Navy Seabees. It all made Ritchie's100th birthday party her biggest.
"The most people I've had at a birthday party," Ritchie said.
Members of Ritchie's family wouldn't have missed the chance to say "Happy Birthday." Her daughter and grandson made the trip all the way from California.
"She did say she doesn't feel like 100," said Ritchie's grandson, Eric Keffer. "To me, I don't think she ever will feel like 100. She's a really incredible and wonderful woman and I feel very fortunate and blessed to have her as my grandmother and also as a friend."
She doesn't act like she's 100 either.
"I see her on the back of a motorcycle a couple of years ago at 98-years-old," said Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich. "So she's just a tremendous gal."
At 98, she also went para-sailing twice and she's planning to do it again this year.
"As soon as it warms up and they go into business again," Ritchie said.
You can't walk away from a 100-year-old's birthday party without getting some advice, and Ritchie was glad to give away her secret to happiness.
"Laugh a lot, have a happy heart, make good friends and keep them," Ritchie said.
Ritchie served during World War II as part of WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service). She moved into the Armed Forces Retirement Home in 1998 from California.