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Published: Monday, 1/4/2010

Toledoan celebrates 100th birthday with nearly 100 friends

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Freda Sackett is aglow as she prepares to blow out her candles. The second of 10 children, she is the only one still living. Freda Sackett is aglow as she prepares to blow out her candles. The second of 10 children, she is the only one still living.
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Long before it was trendy or universally recommended, Freda Sackett's daily regimen was big on what are categorized today as health foods.

Fruits, greens, nuts - all were plentiful inside her West Toledo home. Her diet for years was strictly vegetarian. And she became known throughout the neighborhood for her fresh carrot juice, a vitamin A-packed treat for friends or neighbors curious enough to try it.

She also was - and is - a habitual tea drinker, and one whose tastes have tended toward the more exotic and antioxidant-rich varieties.

So for Mrs. Sackett, who yesterday celebrated her 100th birthday, the party beverage was a natural one: a cup of green tea and one drop honey, please.

"She's gone through all the phases: the white, the black, the brown, and the green," her niece Carol McCallister said with a smile.

the blade/dave zapotosky Freda Sackett blows out her candles with help from niece Carol McCallister, center, and great-niece Kira McCallister during her 100th birthday celebration at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in downtown Toledo. The beverage for the party was tea. the blade/dave zapotosky Freda Sackett blows out her candles with help from niece Carol McCallister, center, and great-niece Kira McCallister during her 100th birthday celebration at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in downtown Toledo. The beverage for the party was tea.
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Nearly 100 family members and friends gathered yesterday for Mrs. Sackett's centennial birthday party in the banquet room of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in downtown Toledo. The festivities followed a spirited, all-congregation rendition of "Happy Birthday" during the Sunday service.

Party-goers traveled from near and far, and many remarked on the inspirational qualities of her good health, memory, and independent lifestyle.

A widow, Mrs. Sackett lives in a second-floor duplex apartment, and navigates flights of stairs several times a day. Until just a few years ago, she took regular walks by herself.

"She loves stairs," said Mary Aring, another niece. "Even if there's an elevator right there, she doesn't like to take it."

Mrs. Aring explained that her aunt's 100-year milestone is quite exceptional, considering that her father died relatively young, and that as the second of 10 children, she's the only one still living.

Her family concludes that diet and lifestyle certainly have been factors in her longevity.

"She was into health food before anyone else," said Mrs. Aring, noting how her aunt, who never learned to drive, is also a light eater who makes four meals out of one foot-long sandwich from a Subway restaurant.

Born as Freda Viola Root in Weston, Ohio, on Jan. 5, 1910, her family was often on the move as her father made his living as a handyman, auctioneer, and minister. Her formal schooling concluded with eighth grade, and she came to Toledo as a teenager and worked on the assembly line at the former Willys-Overland plant.

Her first husband died in a fire. She later met Luther Taylor Sackett, who died in 1972 after 37 years of marriage. She had one child from her first marriage, James LaRocque, who was among those at yesterday's party.

For the big occasion, Mrs. Sackett wore a pink rose corsage with bow atop her cardigan-style sweatshirt, which matched the pink frosting on her cake. She held court at the head table, not far from longtime friend Grace Feldon, 92, who traveled from north of Chicago for the occasion.

Ms. Feldon insisted the distance was nothing compared to that of the cross-country road trips the two made years ago. Even if the journey was to California, the time flew by with Mrs. Sackett in the passenger seat, she said.

"We laughed so hard, we had tears in our eyes," she recalled. "We used to have to pull over to the side of the road!"

The soft-spoken Mrs. Sackett credited her longevity to fresh nutritious foods, carrot juice, Christian living, and time-tested advice: "You just take one day at a time."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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