ENCINITAS — Encinitas residents on Arden Drive recently threw an afternoon soiree for their beloved neighbor who turned 100 years old, but there was a hitch — the guest of honor was a no show.
Dorothy Christ was forced to miss her own party because she got sick with the flu and ended up in the hospital. But that didn’t stop her friends and neighbors from celebrating the woman they say has made a huge impact on their lives.
“Dorothy is the kind of person you want to honor,” said Jane McGhee, who hosted the party at her house on Jan. 19. “She has such great spirit and enthusiasm … always has a smile on her face. Dorothy is an inspiration as she demonstrates how to live and fill your days with meaning and joy. We can all learn from her example. We rejoice that we get to celebrate such a fine lady and her longevity.”
McGhee and her husband Charlie have lived across the street from Christ, whose birthday is Jan. 17, for 27 years. Dozens of other longtime neighbors also came out to show their love.
Alison Wertz said she grew up in the house next door to Christ and her late husband Rodger and used to wash one of their cars when she was around 8 years old.
“It was a little classic orange sports car and I think I got paid a dollar or something,” Wertz said. “I didn’t know how to wash a car, but it meant a lot to me, they were like surrogate grandparents right next door.”
Wertz said Christ was always so sweet to her and she always wanted to visit with her. She would climb on her family’s avocado tree and meet up with Christ at the fence and “talk about who knows what.” Or she would go over to Christ’s house and they’d sit on the couch and “she’d show me pictures and we’d talk and just share time together.”
Wertz, who attended the party with her husband and two kids, said Christ has been a significant figure in her life.
“I’ve just watched her age so gracefully, and she got to see me in every stage of my life,” Wertz said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to have somebody in my life that has been such a permanent figure and I love her.”
Christ’s best friend Josephine Neeb, 78, said they met in the 1960s when they both worked at the San Dieguito Water District and they hit it off right away. Neeb said Christ and Rodger were also friends with her parents, who were close in age. When Rodger and Neeb’s parents all passed away within three months of each other in the late 1990s, the women leaned on one another for support.
“Dorothy had it a little hard at night by herself, after her husband died, so she came and stayed with me,” Neeb said. “Then when she got to feeling better, after two months, she moved back in her house and she did well, I mean she does everything for herself.”
Neeb said Christ has been living with her again recently while work is being done on her house and the two have settled into quite the routine. They like to shop for knick-knacks at Target, get coffee from Starbucks and then Christ takes her long, daily walks, which sometimes last a couple of hours.
“She loves that, it gives her exercise,” Neeb said. “She’s doing well for 100 years old.”
Neeb said even as Christ was sick in the hospital with the flu she fared rather well.
“She doesn’t look in the face like anything is wrong, she looks so happy and healthy,” she said at the party, of visiting Christ in the hospital earlier that day.
Christ got out of the hospital the day after the party and is now back to her normal self. She said she was touched by the turnout of her party.
“I was very surprised and most appreciative that everyone came out to celebrate my 100th birthday,” Christ said on Feb. 4. “It was unfortunate that I couldn’t make it, but I was so happy to see the photos of everyone. It was very thoughtful and I’m touched.”
Christ’s daughter Dianne, who was also battling the flu and had to miss the party, said it warmed her heart and gives her comfort to know her mom is surrounded by caring neighbors. She said her “spitfire” mom has taught her that it’s important to pursue what you love in life, walk often and have a healthy diet.
“My mom has mostly eaten vegetarian and I’m doing the same,” she said. “It’s also important to keep your mind sharp by doing crossword puzzles and avid reading.”
As for the secret to living to 100, Christ admits that even though she’s reached that milestone even she doesn’t really know.
“I tried to live a healthy lifestyle throughout my life,” Christ said. “I used to always take morning walks. I even started taking a senior exercise class. I love vegetables; however, I never turn down a sweet to go with my daily tea.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.