LONG BEACH — Stella Fairbrother dozed occasionally during her birthday party, but no one seemed to mind--least of all the honored one.
It was her 100th birthday and guests had been dropping in all morning to deliver greetings, cards and baskets of flowers and to taste a bit of cake and coffee.
The excitement was unusual and understandably tiring for the soft-spoken woman wearing a corsage of pink carnations and sitting in a wheelchair, so she was forgiven for taking an occasional quick nap.
There were party streamers and balloons decorating the room off the dining hall at Empress Convalescent Center, 1020 Termino Ave., where she has lived for the last few months.
Just before Thanksgiving, Fairbrother fell at her home in Seal Beach, fracturing four ribs. She was hospitalized for a time, released, and then she fell again. Since reinjuring herself, and since the onset of pneumonia complications, she has lived at the convalescent home.
Walked to Market
But until about age 99, she had stayed alone, doing her own cooking and light yardwork. It had been her habit to walk from her home to the Safeway market at Pacific Coast Highway and Balboa Drive in Seal Beach to do her shopping, her friends said. And the store staff had a standing rule to help her with her groceries, including driving her home.
She has for many years been a member of Long Beach First Church of the Nazarene. About 40 of her church friends, the pastor and ministerial associate were at the party to help her celebrate.
Fairbrother was born Stella Johnson on March 1, 1885, in Minnesota, the first of 12 children in a farming family.
"It seems a long time ago," she said when asked about the horse and buggy days. She said the family had a cow or two and that she helped with the milking chores and raising grain crops.
School days are hazy in her memory. "Well, I would say between five and six," she hesitatingly recalled when asked what grade in school she completed. She could not remember for sure, but she does recall walking three miles to get to class.
She lived through some hard years in Minnesota and Montana. Along the line she married Henry Fairbrother, a railroad man, and they had one daughter, Estelle. Henry died in Long Beach in 1958 at age 84 and Estelle died in 1982 at age 74, leaving Stella Fairbrother no grandchildren.
Her nearest relatives are a sister, Dolly Skauge, who is 14 years younger and lives in Lancaster, and two brothers, Howard of Salt Lake City and Arthur of Auburn, Calif.
The 100th birthday party was arranged by Vivian Johnson, a longtime family friend who is a Salvation Army officer in the health and welfare field in New York City.