By Jason KUROSU
When Mary Ayling moved to La Crescenta in 1936, it would have been difficult to imagine she would still be living there in 2014. Any would-be naysayers would have eaten some serious crow had they found themselves at the Mountview Senior Living Community on Saturday where Ayling was celebrating her 105th birthday.
Fellow Mountview residents filled the community room and were treated to food and live music. All the while, Ayling sat near the front, ceremonial crown atop her head and three generations of her family surrounding her.
Mary Ayling’s story began in Los Angeles, where she lived with her parents and grandparents, the family moving frequently about Southern California. She attended Frank Wiggins Trade School and used her millinery skills to get a job at Bullocks Wilshire.
In 1933, she married her high school sweetheart Harry J. Dike in a wedding dress from Bullock’s. Their daughter, Mary Alice Bremenour, was born in 1936, and was present at the birthday celebration, along with her son Darryl and his children. Glendale mayor Dave Weaver also attended and sat with the Bremenour family beside Mary Ayling.
Along with pictures of Mary on display were copies of “Reminiscences,” a short autobiography of Ayling’s life. In it, Ayling details her attachment to her grandmother (“She was more intelligent than anybody else that I knew and was way ahead of her time”) and a Los Angeles nightlife in which teenage girls could walk home barefoot (“We were perfectly safe to walk at night”).
After Bullock’s, Ayling went to Glendale Business College in order to improve her typing and found work at Knudsen Creamery in La Cañada and Western Grinders in Montrose. It wasn’t until working at the cataloguing office at JPL that Ayling found a job she could call home.
“I felt very fortunate to be working at JPL,” Ayling wrote. “I so enjoyed being right in the middle of such new technology. When I was a little girl, very few individuals owned automobiles. Now I was working for a company that was furthering our country’s exploration into space.”
Ayling divorced Dike in 1943 and eventually married Percy John Ayling, an Englishman 23 years her senior. The newlywed couple, along with Mary Alice, moved to a house on Altura Avenue. Ayling unfortunately passed away from a heart attack only five years into their marriage, but Mary remained in La Crescenta. When Mary Alice graduated and moved out, Mary Ayling bought a house for herself on Rockdell Street in 1956.
Fifty-eight years later, Mary Ayling is still calling La Crescenta home.