SPRING HILL - One of the most valuable influences in Mary Cahill's long life has been her family.
That's why she choked up Monday as she walked with Atria Evergreen Woods' engage life director Christina Mainardi into the banquet room at the facility.
"Surprise!" about 90 residents said and clapped at once, and among them were eight family members from out of town. It was Cahill's 102nd birthday.
"I didn't think I was ever going to be able to move. I just stood there in awe," Cahill said. "It was just wonderful."
Later, the room was filled with the sounds of a live musical performance of Cahill's favorite song, "Danny Boy."
"It was an hourlong party with all kinds of '30s and '40s music that she really likes," Mainardi said.
Prior to the surprise, Mainardi approached Cahill's table and asked her if she was going to be attending the party planned later that evening, which Cahill thought was another event unrelated to her birthday.
"And I said, 'I'm not sure.' And she said, 'Well, why don't you go? I have another gift for you,'" Cahill said. "Everybody who is 102 should have the same thing happen to them. Christina made it so wonderful and I thank her from the bottom of my heart, and for the rest of the girls, and everybody that put their effort into it."
Cahill, a resident at Atria Evergreen Woods since 1997, was born Aug. 12, 1911 in Lisbon, Ohio. Orphaned at the age of 6, she was raised by her grandmother in Pittsburgh.
Cahill worked from the age of 14, as a grocery bag clerk, grocery store manager, switchboard operator and secretary for the Navy Department.
In the middle of her career decided to enlist in the Women's Army Corps in 1943, serving in Europe and reaching the rank of sergeant.
After the war, she moved to Washington, D.C. That was in 1946, and seven years later she married Thomas Murphy, who died in 1958.
In 1965 she married the man whose last name she still holds today.
Mary and Joseph Cahill loved to travel: Alaska, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Ireland. Joseph Cahill died in 1980, according to Mainardi, but Mary continued living a life with happiness as a priority.
"She is truly a sweet individual who makes the most of every day," Mainardi said. "Mary can always be seen with a smile on her face."
An avid card player and Pokeno champion, Cahill says if there is a secret to longevity, then it is written in the cards. There is a motto she adheres to about making the most what a person is dealt:
"The thing that goes the farthest, to make life worthwhile, that costs the least and does the most, is just a pleasant smile."