Estella Hudson doesn't like parties. But when a person turns 100 years old, it's an event that most people find hard to ignore.
So on Friday, Oct. 8, about 70 people gathered at the Almost Family Adult Day Care Center in Columbia to celebrate Mrs. Hudson's 100th birthday, which was actually on Saturday, Oct. 9.
It was the first 100th birthday celebration held by the 6-year-old adult day care organization, which has seven centers in Maryland and three in Connecticut. The center provides recreation and meals for senior citizens who live elsewhere and visit the center.
Mrs. Hudson has been attending the private facility three days a week for two months.
"I don't like people making a fuss over me," she said. "I don't know what to think about it, although it's nice that everyone remembers me."
The centenarian -- who sat in an honorary chair decorated with balloons -- received a bouquet of yellow roses from Almost Family executives, a congratulatory letter from County Executive Charles I. Ecker, and gifts from members of the day care staff.
She took the opportunity to relate still-vivid memories of her childhood at the turn of the century.
When Mrs. Hudson was growing up in Marietta, Pa., she and her brother and sister spent time aboard the steamboat Lady Gay, navigated up and down the Susquehanna River by their father, John C. Howard, who "ran the steamboat," she said.
"I used to take my father's lunch to him," said the birthday celebrator, recalling a time when she was about 6 years old. One day, she said, "I fell overboard; I thought I was going to drown. Somehow I managed to hold onto the plank until I pulled myself up . . . I looked like a drowned rat."
While a girl, she passed time with her brother playing baseball, though she said that she "couldn't swing the bat."
"Another recreational pursuit was playing the piano and singing 'The Old Apple Tree' and 'Annie Get Your Gun,' " she recalled. "Oh, how we used to sing that!
"We enjoyed what we had to play with. I remember an old rag doll that we used to throw around. Now, children have so much to play with. It's so different today, but we were happy with what we had."
Mrs. Hudson recalled how hard her parents worked to support her and her brother. Her mother, Jennie Howard, even took in washing and ironing, in an era when a "hand washer" -- a scrub board -- was the only way to launder clothes.
Each member of the family had a particular job to do, Mrs. Hudson recalled. "We had kerosene and coal oil lamps which had to be filled every day; that was my job."
As she grew to adulthood, Mrs. Hudson became an accomplished organist and pianist, often performing at concerts in her church, as well as teaching voice.
After all these years, her happiest memory is the day in 1912 that she married her husband, William, whom she met in a dance school. He died in 1966.
The couple reared three children -- Edward, Estella and Jeanetta -- in Marietta. The youngest, Jeanetta, is now deceased.
Mrs. Hudson, who has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, moved to Jessup from Marietta in August 1988.
She lives with her 75-year-old son, Edward A. Hudson, who attended the birthday celebration.
Asked to what she attributes her longevity, she replied, humbly, "I never dreamed I'd be 100 . . . It's God's will for me to live a long, long time."