Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Hazel George opens a present - side-by-side photos of her as a baby and in the present - during a birthday party Sunday, April 24, 2016 at Heritage Place in Soldotna, Alaska. George joined the other centenarians in the state when she turned 100 Sunday.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Hazel George opens a present - side-by-side photos of her as a baby and in the present - during a birthday party Sunday, April 24, 2016 at Heritage Place in Soldotna, Alaska. George joined the other centenarians in the state when she turned 100 Sunday.

A kid at heart

The dining hall and patio of Heritage Place in Soldotna looked ready to entertain scores of young children Sunday, with bright streamers and confetti, cupcakes, and two miniature horses dressed up like a cowboy and princess.

The celebration was actually set for Heritage Place resident Hazel George, who joined Alaska’s other centenarians as she turned 100 years old. Born in Idaho on April 24, 1916, and raised on a chicken farm, George taught the first grade for 20 years, said her daughter, Roberta Tuning of Soldotna. George also liked to join her husband in riding horses, she said.

Tuning was one of about 11 family members who traveled from Anchorage, Palmer and Wyoming to celebrate George’s big day.

“It’s a surprise,” she said of the turnout. “I didn’t know they were coming, but I’m glad they did.”

“I can’t even say,” George said when asked what it meant that they had traveled all that way.

Family friend Char Moore and her husband helped secure the horses for the party as well as decorate and organize. The tables at Heritage Place were decked out with the primary colors and littered with paper apples and other teaching-themed party fixtures, which George said was her favorite part of the event. She also took pleasure in petting and feeding the mini horses, Buckaroo and Daisy Mae, who were dressed up in hats and feather boas for the party.

The look of shock on her face as she unwrapped side-by-side photos of herself as an infant and in present day drew laughs and cheers from family and friends at the party.

George’s cake also contained educational elements, as well as horses, and reinforced the youthful theme with a little sign reading, “Sweet 16, one more time!”

“Wow. Just, wow,” she said of the festivities.

George now joins other Alaskans who have lived past 100 years old, including another Heritage Place resident, Fern Elam, who turned 105 last September.

“It’s in the genes, I guess,” Tuning joked of her mother’s longevity.

George had two or three aunts who also lived past 100 years old, Tuning said.

“She has a lot of determination,” she added.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Hazel George opens a present prepares to eat her cake during a birthday party Sunday, April 24, 2016 at Heritage Place in Soldotna, Alaska. George joined the other centenarians in the state when she turned 100 Sunday.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Hazel George opens a present prepares to eat her cake during a birthday party Sunday, April 24, 2016 at Heritage Place in Soldotna, Alaska. George joined the other centenarians in the state when she turned 100 Sunday.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Hazel George feeds a miniature horse while her daughter, Roberta Tuning, and son-in-law, Jim Tuning, look on during a birthday party Sunday, April 24, 2016 at Heritage Place in Soldotna, Alaska. George joined the other centenarians in the state when she turned 100 Sunday.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Hazel George feeds a miniature horse while her daughter, Roberta Tuning, and son-in-law, Jim Tuning, look on during a birthday party Sunday, April 24, 2016 at Heritage Place in Soldotna, Alaska. George joined the other centenarians in the state when she turned 100 Sunday.

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