Tuesday is the birthday of Plantation Manor’s soon-to-be only centenarian, but the entire Plantation Manor community celebrates her everyday.
The staff at Plantation Manor has hosted a special birthday party for McCracken Thursday night so she can celebrate with the staff and other residents.
McCracken said, “There’s a big surprise coming tomorrow [Friday], too, they tell me.”
Early next week, on her official birthday, her daughter and son-in-law who live in Colorado Springs will be coming to Thomasville to celebrate with her.
“I know there’s something cooking if they are coming. That’s just the type people they are,” McCracken added.
She remembered on birthdays when she was younger having her favorite meal for dinner.
McCracken was raised in Franklin, Penn. She is the oldest of four children, all of which she has outlived. She married shortly after high school and had her first daughter a year and a half later. A son and another daughter followed. She has 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
McCracken came to Thomasville because her other daughter began working in nearby Moultrie and at one time worked for Plantation Manor. During the time before moving to Thomasville, she lived in Florida, but her daughter wanted her nearby. It was then that she came to Plantation Manor.
It is where she has resided for over 10 years.
“I love it here. I have a lot of friends. Everyone can have friends if they want them. Just be friendly,” said McCracken.
Around Plantation Manor, McCracken is known as a “rolling stone who gathers no moss” because she is always on the go.
She said, “I’m the type who wants to go shopping if you are. I’m not one to stay home. I like to get out and do things. During my life, I’ve done enough sitting and watching the walls move. I don’t like staying at home when I can be out doing something.”
McCracken has visited most of the United States. She cannot think of one she has not visited. Out of all the states, Colorado is her favorite.
She said, “My husband would always love to drive to Colorado because of the view. We’d lean up in our seats and look up out the window to get a view of the mountaintops. I’ve been to Pike’s Peak at least 12 times. It’s so beautiful.”
McCracken is also known for her great love of bears that she has been collecting for more than 50 years. Her room is decorated with hundreds of bears of every size. Even though she loves them all and most of them have names, there are some who stick out in her memory.
She remembered one birthday where a volunteer at Plantation Manor took her to Tallahassee to eat spaghetti and to Build-a-Bear Workshop. McCracken was overwhelmed by the workshop.
“Never in my life had I seen a place like that,” she said.
It is a memory she holds close each night as the bear she built lays nearby.
McCracken has given away some of her bears to special people. One she gave away to a lady who had just had surgery. She donated others to hospitals to comfort children.
One story McCracken enjoys telling her visitors is a joke an older man who once lived at Plantation Manor told her about her bears.
She said, “There was an older man who lived here and he’d call me ‘Sweetheart’ and things like that. I didn’t buy into any of that but, anyway, there were some ladies here in the dining room who bought me a bear. The gentleman asked me what I said to them when they gave it to me and I told him I said, ‘Thank you very much.’
“He told me I was all wrong in what I said. I had no idea what he meant and was so confused. I didn’t think I said the wrong thing. He told me I should have said, ‘Thank you ‘beary’ much.’ I’ve always laughed over that.”
Another thing that people at Plantation Manor and community members know McCracken for is her unselfishness and love for others. During the course of her life, she has spent countless hours volunteering.
She once would volunteer at hospitals as a “visiting nurse.” She would not administer medication, but would take people to the doctor, give patients blankets and water.
She said, “I spent nine years on one cancer unit volunteering. You don’t enjoy seeing people have cancer, but you love helping them anyway you can.”
McCracken continues to volunteer at Plantation Manor.
For the past 10 years, she has been attending the Alzheimer’s Disease Support Group even though she does not have a family member suffering from the disease. She does it because she wants to help people.
“I read three books on Alzheimer’s Disease and told Betty Sawyer I wanted to help if they’d let me,” said McCracken.
During the past 10 years, she has only missed one meeting.
She said, “I don’t regret one minute of being a volunteer.”
Every day in her room, McCracken makes sure she makes her bed so the staff members do not have to worry with it. She prides herself in still being able to take care of and do things for herself. She wants to make sure the staff workers have plenty of time to take care of the ones who need it more than she does.
She said, “I don’t want people to have to wait on me. I do what I can because I am able.”
When asked about how she feels about turning 100, McCracken shrugged and said she feels no different than she did when she turned 25 years old, but realizes there are some things she cannot do any longer.
McCracken said, “I know I can’t do things like I did when I was 25. I lose my balance too easily, but I try to do things.”
When McCracken thought back over the 100 years she has lived, she considered her life ordinary, but misses many of the people who once were in her life.
“I miss people, but that’s what life is.”
McCracken has had no serious health problems.
She said, “It’s a birthday I’ll never forget. I can tell you that much. It never occurred to me I would have a 100th birthday, but I’m glad.”
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.