Nanny turns 103: Lessons from a great, great grandma who's seen a lot

Members of the Brake family gathered outside a nursing home window to celebrate great-great grandmother's 103rd birthday. (WTHR Photo/Mary Milz)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – Members of the Brake family gathered outside a north side nursing home Wednesday morning to wish Agnes Brake or "Nanny," a happy birthday. The great-great grandmother turned 103.

"It's just a birthday like no other one we've ever had," her son Dennis said.

Because of the coronavirus, guests are not allowed inside in the building. But that didn't stop Nanna's party.

(WTHR Photo/Mary Milz)

Dennis and other family stood on the outside porch looking through the window at Nanny, wearing her birthday crown and sash with a beaming smile.

With staff at her side, several wearing birthday glasses, Nanny talked to family members using an iPad.

"Isn't this a wonderful birthday?" Dennis asked. "Yes, wonderful, wonderful," Nanny replied.

Granddaughter Kelly Brake marveled at how technology was allowing them to share in the special celebration.

"A couple of years ago we wouldn't be able to do this," Kelly said. "But this 103-year-old is on FaceTime and that's pretty incredible, pretty incredible."

Also incredible? Everything the mother of seven and grandmother of many, has seen and lived through over the course of her 103 years.

She was just a baby when the 1918 flu pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. She also lived through two world wars and the Great Depression.

Dennis asked if she remembered that time and all the people out of work.

Nanny said she did. She said she also remembered how her mother would invite neighbors in need over to the house "to feed them."

Dennis said Nanny knows there's a quarantine and that she cannot visit relatives in person. He said as she's always done, she finds reasons to stay positive.

When asked what her secret is to a long and happy life, Nanny said, "just taking care of yourself, that will do."

When Dennis asked with a chuckle in his voice, "does it have anything to do with liking cheap wine," she laughed and said, "oh yes."

But most importantly, Dennis credits her deep Catholic faith, love of family and trust in a better tomorrow or as she said, "just looking forward to the next time."

Dennis said, the mantra he's heard time and time again is "stay busy, take it one day at a time, keep putting one foot in front of the other and accept help when offered and do your part in helping others."

Timely words of wisdom from a great-great grandma already looking forward to celebrating next year's birthday without the windows between her and her family allowing for plenty of heartfelt hugs.