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HAMC resident celebrates 100th birthday

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 13, 2021

Submitted Photo Helen Austin, a resident of Heart of America Medical Center’s long-term care unit, celebrates her 100th birthday wearing a crown, sash and a smile.

Residents and staff at Heart of America Medical Center’s long-term care unit know Helen Austin for her smile.

Austin’s usual smile grew bigger late in January, when the unit helped her celebrate her 100th birthday.

“Helen is a very kind lady who wants everybody happy,” said Shelly Block, HAMC’s activities director. “She’s always got a smile on her face.”

Austin was born Jan. 18, 1921, to Frank and Gertrude Hess in Detroit, Mich. She spent most of her life in Michigan and Florida.

Austin moved to HAMC’s long-term care center in 2016 to be closer to her daughter, Barbara, who lives in Rugby.

Austin’s granddaughter, Kelly Clements, is director of nursing at Haaland Estates in Rugby. Clements and her husband, Todd, have four children of their own. Austin has seven other great-grandchildren living in Texas, Minnesota and Michigan.

Besides Clements, Austin has four other grandchildren in Arizona, Michigan and Minnesota. Austin has one other child, Robert, who lives with his wife in Arizona.

Austin attended Marr Elementary School and McMichael Junior High in Detroit before graduating from Northwestern High School in 1939, according to information given by Barbara Austin.

Barbara Austin said her mother went to work as a secretary for a doctor after graduating high school.

“She and Dad got married in 1940 and she worked until she was pregnant with me,” Barbara Austin wrote.

Helen Austin’s husband, Richard, lived just over 100 years himself.

The Austins lived in Livonia, Howell and Ann Arbor, Mich. before moving to Florida in 1991. Helen lived in Florida until her husband died in 2015.

Austin told Block she remembered the 1930s and ’40s, but things “really haven’t changed that much, because we just need to change as the times change.”

However, Austin has shared memories from World War II and the 1940s with her daughter in the past.

“I remember Mom telling me about WW II,” Barbara Austin wrote. “Dad worked at the Ford Rouge Plant in Detroit manufacturing aircraft engines, tanks and military vehicles. She also told me about food ration stamps (for sugar, butter and other products). I think gas for vehicles was a ration as well.”

When asked about her secret to a long life, Austin said, “It’s no secret, just keep yourself healthy and work hard.”

“I am slowing down and can’t do the things I used to, but I don’t feel any different,” Austin said. “I do not feel ‘100,’ “ she added with one of her usual smiles.

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