A live band softly played Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” as Lucille Pugh slow danced with her sparkly tiara catching the light – just after she was crowned prom queen.
But one big thing set her apart from a traditional high school prom queen: She is more than 100 years old.
The staff of Waltonwood Cary Parkway, a senior living community where Pugh has lived for three years, decided to have a “senior” prom Wednesday to celebrate Pugh’s 103rd birthday, said Christina Henderson, the center’s life enrichment director. Pugh’s birthday was Thursday, July 14, the next day.
“We were talking to several of the different residents about their proms,” Henderson said. “A lot of them didn’t have proms. Most of them, at their age, went to smaller schools.”
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She thought it would be nice to have a prom for the residents, who are 55 and older, because it’s better late than never to attend such a milestone dance. The staff tried to make it feel as authentic as possible, complete with a photo booth and refreshment table, with white clothed tables surrounding a dance floor.
“What a great way to celebrate her birthday and celebrate the residents,” Henderson said.
Pugh, herself, was full of energy. She said she’d been excited all day for the celebration, and that excitement was visible as she bustled around, giving hugs to her family and friends.
She credits her good health and diet for her longevity. She’s the first in her family to become a centenarian.
“I don’t have any secret,” she said, her Southern accent strong. Pugh is from Fayetteville and has spent her whole life in North Carolina.
“I’ve just always had good health, and a good diet,” she said. “My mother always gave us a good diet.”
She also stayed active, bowling up until she was 100. She has four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Her favorite thing to do is read. And her favorite era of her life was the last few years she spent with her second husband.
“He was so good to me, and he spoiled me,” she said.
The night commenced with the prom attendees singing “Happy Birthday” while Pugh’s cake was cut. Table 5 Band played covers of oldies, and a few residents even took turns on the dance floor.
It might have had a different atmosphere than a high school prom – there wasn’t a DJ spinning dance tunes, for example – but the excitement and mingling all were still there.
“You don’t have a resident that turns 103 everyday,” said Joyce Simnor, a Waltonwood resident. “It’s a great celebration. I think they did a really great job with the music, cake, the refreshments. It’s been a lovely evening so far.”
Pugh’s fellow residents had nothing but positive remarks about her and her attitude. Louise Powell, another Waltonwood resident, said she thinks Pugh’s carefree personality explains why she has lived so long.
“She’s 103 years old, and she’s at breakfast every morning at 8 o’clock,” Powell said. “She says she’s never worried about anything, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh that’s why you’re 103.’ ”
Henderson agreed that Pugh’s mindset is her secret to a happy and long life, and she’s a joy to have around the facility.
“She’s outgoing, she loves everybody, never has a cross word to say about a soul,” she said. “She’s told me before she doesn’t worry about things, and she loves everybody.”
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609; @pconnellly