On Sunday afternoon, Isabelle Burton, who turns 100 today, sat in the front row at the Sunrise senior living center as friends and family celebrated her birthday.
But when Burton’s son-in-law, Paul Scopel of east Cobb, turned on Glenn Miller’s big band hit, “In the Mood,” the centenarian rose from her chair and proceeded to dance.
Her daughter, Eda Scopel, was not that surprised, observing that when her mother attended Johnson Ferry Baptist Church’s Magnolia Ball two years ago, she remained on the dance floor for a full two hours.
Burton declined to reveal the secret to her longevity, at least on Sunday. “You’ll have to read it in my book,” she said.
Eda Scopel attributes her mother’s long life in part to genetics.
“Both of her parents lived to be in their 80s,” Scopel said.
“And then two, what we would call clean living: an occasional cocktail, never smoking, some exercise, but definitely not a fanatic by any means, and she watched her weight.”
Burton also never held a grudge, her daughter said.
“She’s a very forgiving person. She just hardly gets upset with anybody,” she said.
Mary Stephens with Right from the Heart Ministries serenaded the 100 or so friends and family in attendance with “Amazing Grace” and “At Last” while Hank Booth from Johnson Ferry presented Burton with a box filled with 100 birthday cards from fellow church members.
Born April 29, 1913 in Allison, PA to first generation Americans from Ireland and Wales, Burton attended Howard College (Samford University) where she was elected Homecoming Queen. She was a school teacher and drove an ambulance during WWII in Birmingham, Alabama as part of the Women’s Motor Corps. She was also active in the Red Cross and an avid Republican, attending the national conventions where Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon were nominated.
Burton was in the Atlanta Stadium when Hank Aaron hit his 719th homerun and broke the homerun record. She was at the Atlanta World Congress Center when the American women won the gold medal in gymnastics at the Olympics, her son-in-law said.
Burton, who outlived three husbands, is the oldest member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.
Presenting her with the box of birthday cards, Booth said he had a slight variation on an Irish blessing to give her.
“May the Son of God always be at your back, and at your front, and at your side, and may the Son of Righteous himself fill you with love and joy forever and ever,” he said.