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101 and counting
Man celebrates birthday amid friends, family
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Valerie Thompson, director of the adult daycare at Senior Citizens, Inc. cuts cake during Junior Campbells 101st birthday party on Thursday. His daughter, Thelma Lane, and site director Chrislene Nelson-Taylor, sit with Campbell as he enjoys his birthday cake. - photo by Seraine Page

Junior Campbell celebrated his 101st birthday surrounded by friends and family Thursday while wearing his best suit and a sparkly birthday hat.

His daughter and granddaughter sat next to him, smiling as he blew out the candles on his birthday sheet cake. The Senior Citizens, Inc. center hosted the party for the man who center representatives say has a "million dollar smile," but who doesn’t talk much.

"It truly is an honor to be in his presence," Chrislene Nelson-Taylor, site director, said. "They [the seniors] don’t take life for granted…they love all the moments they can get."

Pink notes of best wishes sat on the table where he slowly ate his vanilla ice cream with vanilla cake covered in thick orange and black frosting. Publix even frosted a photo of Campbell from his 100th birthday party onto the dessert. Family members say he doesn’t care for chocolate, but always insists on eating ice cream at every meal except breakfast.

"He’s always been a kind, sweet person and he always tried to help us," his daughter Thelma Lane said.

In 2004, he came to live with her, something she wasn’t used to and something that was a bit of a challenge for the now 73-year-old.

"It is exciting, to tell you the truth," she said of her father turning more than a century old. "He still can do just about everything for himself. He can still shave himself better than I can!"

J.C. — that’s what his close friends and family call him — loves church and going to the senior center to make crafts with other folks in the community.

"He looks forward to coming [to the center]," his granddaughter Sonia Gaskins said. Her grandfather will often make crafts and bring them home to her, something she enjoys seeing him get excited about.

In his younger years, she remembers him driving from Deerfield Beach, Fla., to Georgia to visit family when he wasn’t working during the summer, a memory she said she will always cherish. As for her fondest memories of him, she said he was endlessly kind and never complained and was filled with love for his family, something she still sees in his personality today.

"I just hope those genes and blessings will trickle down to me and my child and we will have longevity," Gaskins said.

Other seniors — mostly in their 60s and 70s — walked up and patted Campbell on the back and wished him a happy birthday. He slowly nodded and smiled when he heard a familiar voice.

Aside from the celebration of a large milestone, seniors remarked to Nelson-Taylor about the inspiration they received from Campbell’s birthday party.

"They say it gives them hope and that they will be going home to do research about how to live longer," Nelson-Taylor said with a wide grin. "It is breathtaking to see [someone turn 101]. He’s full of joy and he’s got that million-dollar smile."


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