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“I have lived a very happy life and I am grateful for that,” said Julia MacWhinney, who celebrates her 100th birthday on March 4 with a big party with her family and friends at her Olivenhain home. Courtesy photo
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Julia MacWhinney celebrates centennial

ENCINITAS — Julia MacWhinney said she won’t give us the secret of how she’s lived to be 100 years old.

“It’s my secret, if I told you it wouldn’t be my secret anymore,” she said with a laugh. “You can quote me on that.”

But said MacWhinney, there has been one overriding theme to her life that has been key to making the ride to 100 unforgettable: happiness.

“I have lived a very happy life and I am grateful for that,” said MacWhinney, who turned 100 on March 4 and celebrated it with a big party with her family and friends at her Olivenhain home. “I don’t know why I have been so happy, but I have been very fortunate to more or less have had pleasant experiences.”

These days, MacWhinney said she avidly reads, watches PBS, keeps abreast with politics and has a keen interest in the 2016 election. She laments what she called “terrible behavior” of some of the candidates, attributing it to the technical revolution and the way it has changed human behavior.

“I have never seen people acting the way they do,” MacWhinney said.

Now that she has turned 100, she said she wants to live long enough to see how it plays out in November. She hasn’t decided who she will vote for, but reserved her harshest words for Donald Trump, who she has nicknamed “The Tramp.”

“He’s the clown of the circus,” she said. “You can quote me on that.”

Born the daughter of two Hungarian immigrants on the aforementioned date in 1916, MacWhinney was raised in New York and has fond memories of watching Gen. John J. Pershing parade down Fifth Avenue celebrating America’s victory in World War I.

“I remember other little things too, like going to the zoo, going to a party some place and eating ice cream cones,” MacWhinney said. “And I remember the time I was married and started a new life. I remember the time my children were born. Those are all highlights.”

She married her husband James MacWhinney soon after meeting him in 1936, and the couple immersed themselves in the New York art community. James was an art teacher and later a graphic designer.

The young family moved from New York in 1948, shortly after the birth of their son Brian and daughter, Maura. They first moved to Prescott, Ariz. before moving to California, where they lived in Riverside for 35 years.

MacWhinney went back to school and received a bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside and became an elementary school teacher in the Val Verde School District, where she taught for 23 years before retiring at age 66.

“I could have gone on longer, but my husband had just retired (Jim was a school administrator in California) and he didn’t want to be alone at home, so I decided I would be with him,” she said.

In 1972, the couple moved to Encinitas, and later bought a home in Olivenhain where she has lived the past 27 years. Their daughter, Maura, then known as Maura Wiegand, moved to Encinitas and served on the City Council from 1990 to 1994.

Maura, whose surname is now Harvey, said her mother, who was very involved with the League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum and three book clubs, was influential in her decision to get involved in local government.

“She helped me have a lot of confidence, and an awareness for others,” Harvey said. “I am a little bit like my mother, and I think if she had the ability she could have run for council and would have won, but she didn’t have the free time.

“She raised me to be socially aware and care about my community and country, but not just the country, the world,” Harvey said.

For MacWhinney, life in Encinitas was filled with more good times with her husband before he died in 2001. She said she remembers traveling the world with him, meeting new people and coming back to Encinitas to the house they called home in Olivenhain.

“We had such good times,” she said. “That was before the difficulties.”

MacWhinney said her life has had its share of lows — she named the sudden death of her mother when she was 39, the passing of her father, who lived to be 99 and the death of her husband as the most difficult memories — but she chooses not to focus on them.

She is happy that she is alive, and still active in her community.

“I guess I feel a sense of victory, that I’ve made it, and I am still in fairly decent shape,” she said.