Celebrating 106 together

Miriam Colburn and Helen Oullette first met during a celebration marking their 106 birthdays earlier this month. They both reside at Oak Hill Assisted Living in Grand Rapids.

They were born less than a month apart — 106 years ago! Miriam Colburn and Helen Oullette met for the first time earlier this month at the assisted living facility where they both reside.

Colburn was born Sept. 18, 1913, in Floodwood and grew up in Deer River. Ouellette was born Aug. 26, 1913, in Hill City where she lived most of her life. Today, they both live at Oak Hill in Grand Rapids.

Among the 20 or so residents that call Oak Hill Assisted Living home, it’s quite remarkable that two of them are 106 years old. On a warm September day, pink balloons floated above tables of flowers and friends, cookies and cupcakes, photos and family as the facility celebrated their eldest residents.

Aside from the festivities, the two ladies held hands and smiled about their age.

“Here’s to many more,” laughed Colburn to which Oullette joked, “I feel like I’m 21.”

Both women still have their wits about them and admitted that they’d probably rather be celebrating their milestones at the casino — or even doing cartwheels on the lawn, as Oullete explained.

“Mom has never been one to admit her age,” said Colburn’s daughter, Wendy Johnson, who explained that her mother renewed her driver’s license at the age of 101 even though she quit driving at the grand age of 100.

If you think about it, these ladies have seen a lot of changes. In 1913, women were not allowed to vote but the suffrage movement was starting to gain momentum with the suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., on March 3 of that year. Woodrow Wilson was president, the Woolworth building was built in New York City as the tallest building in the world, and Ford Motor Company introduced the assembly line which greatly accelerated production of the Model T. It would be nearly a year later when World War I would erupt in 1914.

Looking at old photographs of her mother, Johnson commented about how times have changed. The photos show her mother and father on picnics with glass tea cups and on hunting excursions in buttoned-up blouses.

On the day of the birthday celebration at Oak Hill, Coburn was dolled-up in a fresh hair-do and Oullette had her pearl necklace on. When the two women were introduced and realized they both had reached the age of 106, they spoke about their similarities such as growing up on farms and how that may have contributed to their longevity.

Whatever the case, both Coburn and Oullette have witnessed a lot of change and are living to smile about it.


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