“Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
By Mary O’KEEFE
Imagine living to be 100 years old. One hundred years of memories of children, loves and losses. For most who reach this milestone, it is a bittersweet moment as family and friends gather to celebrate. There is great excitement mixed with a bit of loneliness as many times those celebrating this birthday are the only people their age. Though there are not many who can share 100 years of memories, at a birthday party on Saturday at Twelve Oaks Assisted Living a party was held that featured nothing but smiles and shared memories. Two women each celebrated a century of life and a friendship for the ages. Ivada Parker and Jeanne Tyler Hoyt celebrated with family and friends.
“Welcome, everyone,” said Pam Parker, Ivada’s daughter and La Crescenta resident. “[We celebrate] these lifelong friends … who have been examples for us to live by.”
The tea party birthday at Twelve Oaks was beautifully decorated with balloons touting 200 years and golden birthday cakes baked by Twelve Oaks’ Julian Hernandez.
For Parker and Hoyt, it was a time to enjoy together.
“Day by day,” answered Parker of her secret to longevity.
Parker was born in South Africa and moved to Los Angeles when she was very young because her dad wanted to attend medical school. He went to Loma Linda and became a family doctor who knew every one of his patients and their families.
She grew up in Hancock Park and took advantage of everything that the young City of Los Angeles had to offer. She became a nurse, getting her degree at Bishop Johnson College of Nursing, part of Good Samaritan, and worked as a nurse until she became a mother. She and her husband had three children.
During a prior interview with CVW and at her birthday tea party, it was obvious this woman had not lost one ounce of grace or her sense of humor during her 100 years. Her style harks back to a day when people dressed up to go out, including applying subtle but perfectly applied makeup.
She always dresses just right, said Pam.
Parker spoke glowingly of Los Angeles and all it had to offer. She lived a philanthropic life, especially through The Ebell of Los Angeles. The philanthropic organization began in Los Angeles 125 years ago founded by women for women.
According to the Ebell website, the club’s mission is to “participate in and encourage the educational, cultural and social growth of the diverse LA Community.”
Parker was president of The Ebell Club for many years and remained active in volunteering well into her 80s. Ebell members joined in Saturday’s birthday celebration.
Being active seemed to be a factor in having a long life for Parker’s friend and cousin Jeanne Tyler Hoyt. Hoyt does not live at Twelve Oaks but she is still in the LA area. The two friends do not get to see each other as often as they would like so the birthday party that jointly celebrated their 100 years was perfect.
Hoyt is a first generation Californian and a proud Angeleno. She went to Hollywood High School and was a professional ballroom dancer when she was a teenager.
She was Gower Champion’s first partner. Champion had a career on Broadway and was in films from the 1930s through the 1950s. He is best known as part of the dancing team of Marge and Gower, but when he was a teen he first partnered with Hoyt.
“They competed with professional ballroom dancers at the Coconut Grove, and won,” said Hoyt’s daughter, Dr. Sharon Nelson.
She continued to dance with Gower and traveled with the Big Bands of the 1940s.
“I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s when a woman’s place was in the home. My mom taught me that women can do anything they want,” Nelson said.
And Hoyt never hesitated when challenged. She was still downhill skiing at 85 and kayaked until she was 90. She and her husband were highlighted in Al and Tipper Gore’s book, “Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family.”
The couple volunteered with the Redlands Police Force and garnered over 1,000 volunteer hours.
During the birthday party, Hoyt made sure to speak to everyone who wished her well and smiled and laughed as she saw old friends.
The day was made even more meaningful because Hoyt’s brother Edwin Tyler, who is 97 years old and until recently was a professional tennis player, was in attendance.
The birthday tea party brought family and friends together to honor these two longtime friends whose lives have been an inspiration for 100 years.