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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

#CelebratingOthers - Irene Pavlyshyn (AKA Mrs. Pav) is 100 Years Old!

No nap instead! Reaching 100 years old is a B.A.D. (Big a$$ Deal).

It's not every day we are invited or share in a century birthday celebration of someone we know. Sure, Al Roker mentions several centenarians on The Today Show every week, and I am always amazed at the longevity. Still, I never knew one person myself at the miracle milestone age, though I do now!

But knowing someone turning 100 can happen, as it did for me. About two months ago, I was invited to Mrs. Pav's 100th Birthday Party in Cleveland, Ohio. I noted it on my calendar and wanted to go if all the stars aligned. By Thursday of this past week, those stars were shining bright on a trip to Cleveland for the party and much more.

I met Mrs. Pav around 1971 or 1972 when her daughter, Mary, and I became good friends while in the Girl Scouts together—Mary was in the third grade, and I was in the second grade. Mrs. Pav, along with my Mom and a few other moms who had daughters in our troop, initially became helpers of our troop's leaders and eventually co-leaders. We had enormous fun camping at the great Girl Scout Camps in Northeast Ohio while earning badges and learning new skills that went along with those badges.

A considerable blessing throughout our lives is that Mary and I have remained friends and in touch. I try to call Mary and her Mom when I am in Cleveland and have an hour or two for a visit with them. It's always a fun-filled hour, so for me, it's the little things in life like this, catching up with an "old friend," that are the big things - like decades of friendships.

Mary still lives in the home she grew up in and now is her Mom's full-time caregiver after her long career teaching elementary education. As an aside, we drove out to Los Angeles in Mary's brand-new car together in 1984 for the Olympic Games and saw many sights on our epic trip. Mrs. Pav and Emil (who died in 2017), Mary's Dad, blessed us that we were smart and had good driving skills to drive 5,000 miles that summer while only 22 years old!

Empathy is Mrs. Pav's forte. When our son Ryan was diagnosed with Leukemia almost 27 years ago this month, Mrs. Pav sent me a poem, *Welcome to Holland,* a prominent essay about having a child with a disability written by Emily Perl Kingsley. I read and reread that poem over 1000 times, if not more, especially when I was having a bad moment (I used the poem to carry me forward). I carried my original copy from Mrs. Pav until it was too tattered and ripped to keep folded in my handbag.

So, while at the party on Saturday, Mrs. Irene Pavlyshyn's exact day 100th Birthday (October 7, 1923), I noticed that everyone had a special moment with her as she sat full of happiness in her wheelchair and listened intently to all her well-wishers. While watching the crowd, I suspected that Mrs. Pav had a special bond of something tangible or intangible with almost all 150 of her guests! Now, that's truly something to celebrate - she has "manufactured sunshine" with her people for decades!

And not only that, Mrs. Pav has been a passionate student of people for most of her life. She loves them! Her gentle demeanor enchants anyone in her orbit because in talking with her, the conversation is never about her; it's always about the other person. Mrs. Pav is still inquisitive, interested, curious, loving and kind, faithful to her Ukrainian Church, loves teaching (she was also a teacher, and several of her "students" attended the party) and animals (she was a docent at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for 30 years along with her sister!). She and her sister Mollie, who died in January of 2021 at the age of 99 years young, were the one-two punch like only close sisters can be. I loved "Aunt" Mollie, too! They were a force to be reckoned with - all in a good way.

Do you ever think about the secret of life? And how does one live to 100 years old?

The last time I checked, Cleveland, Ohio, is not considered a Blue Zone ("Blue Zones" are geographic areas with lower rates of chronic diseases and a longer life expectancy), but there are several living the centenarian dream of reaching 100, or close to it in Cleveland, including one of the gentleman guests at the party who is 105 years old - and frankly - did not look a day over the age of 75. I am not kidding!

I couldn't leave this post without calling Mary tonight to add that cherry on top of the ice cream sundae life of 100 on how her Mom aged so well. I was all in on learning about the secret sauce! And without further adieu, Mary revealed what her Mom had done her entire life: it's all about keeping up with friendships (they take effort, and it's a two-way street...), plus surrounding yourself with positive people and appreciating our world and the nature that swirls around every inch of our Earth - even better. Lastly, enjoy your life (don't take yourself so seriously); you only have one.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Pav!


Photos: Mrs. Pav; me w/ the Birthday Girl; Mary & her Mom; me, Mrs. Pav and my sister Annette; decorations at the parish hall of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church, me, Mrs. Pav & Mary; The "Bowlers" Volleyball team from the early 1990s; more decorations, and the lovely Irene Pavlyshyn!


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