The year Marion Jordan was born, Woodrow Wilson was president, the United States lost its first ship of World War I and 25,000 women marched in New York City demanding the right to vote.
To celebrate her 100th birthday last week, community members packed the Meade Area Garden Club’s monthly meeting Friday morning at Jessup Community Hall to throw Jordan a surprise party, complete with cake, balloons, flowers and presents.
“She’s beautiful,” said Veola Hall, who has lived in the house behind Jordan for the past 30 years. “I hug her all the time because I want some of it to rub off on me.”
Jordan, whose official birthday is Jan. 15, is a member of the Meade Area Garden Club, Retired Officers’ Wives’ Club and the Protestant Women of the Chapel at Fort Meade.
“[She’s] a very spirited person,” said Sharon Durney, president of the garden club. “She could run circles around all of us. She likes to walk and she likes to dance. She helped decorate Club Meade for Christmas and she helped take it all down. She was running all over the place bringing us stuff.”
The centenarian celebrated at the party by slow-dancing with her tuxedoed partner, retired Lt. Col. Hank Bellinger, to “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole. Jordan said she loves to dance and dances every day, sometimes even by herself.
Bellinger, who has known Jordan since the early 1970s, was close friends with her late husband, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Arthur E. Jordan Jr., who died in 1992. The couple married in 1942 in Clifton Forge, Va.
“I think she is an outstanding lady,” said Bellinger before proceeding to dance and twirl Jordan in front of the room. “To have a mind like she has; her mind is wonderful.”
Jordan, adorned in a purple suit and a white beret, bounced around the room greeting friends.
“I didn’t know she was turning 100 today — I thought she was turning 90,” said Elva Cox, who graduated with Jordan in 1981 from Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Jordan also helps decorate Club Meade every year for Christmas and attends monthly garden club meetings and events such as the club’s annual trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show.
“She’s such an inspiration,” said Dana Rogers, wife of Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of Central Security Service. “I just met her back in the fall and I feel like I’ve known her all my life.”
The secret to living a long life, Jordan said, is praying and dancing.
“I pray every day and I dance,” said Jordan, who resides in The Provinces. “I stay on the go. I don’t let myself sit around. Be active. I’m very active.”
Other highlights of the 30-minute celebration included Jordan blowing out the “100” candle on her cake, making the first ceremonial cut of the cake, and the packed room singing “Happy Birthday” to a beaming Jordan.
“My life motto is, ‘I don’t feel 100 years old,’ ” Jordan said. “I stay on the go all the time. I belong to a lot of clubs.”
Jordan, who was married for half-a-century, has three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Both her daughter and daughter-in-law traveled from Tennessee and North Carolina to be with Jordan for her special day.
“I think for our family it’s a blessing from God that my mother is healthy and that she’s active and that we still have her, that we can enjoy her,” Mary Jordan said. “My mother is a very delicate and gracious person. She’s not only my mother, but my best friend and over the years we have really developed a wonderful relationship.”
Jordan’s daughter-in-law Kelly Jordan could not stop raving about the feats of her mother-in-law.
Kelly Jordan said her mother-in-law does her own grocery shopping, attends church every Sunday and even drank mimosa cocktails with her grandchildren on Christmas. She said Jordan sometimes has two social events on one day, including dances, luncheons and teas.
“She runs her own home,” Kelly Jordan said. “She has a social calendar fuller than mine.”
Marion Jordan said her proudest accomplishments are her 50-year marriage and her children, and the amount of traveling she has done.
“We all want to be like her,” said Nan Horrom, publicity chairperson for the garden club.
Jordan said she has lived all over the world while traveling with her husband when he was in the service. They lived in Japan for five years, as well as Hawaii, Massachusetts and Alaska from 1962 to 1965.
“[Alaska] was all so different,” Jordan said. “It took me almost a year to get used to it. The darkness, it was just like a dreamland.”
Jordan said her husband’s first assignment was at Fort Meade and together they took a total of three tours at the post, the last in 1975.
Jordan continues to remain active in the community and has developed a number of lasting friendships.
“She knows everybody,” Hall said. “Everybody knows her. She is a beautiful person.”
By Shari Rosen, Staff Writer