Helen Wheat, who celebrated her 110th birthday Sunday, is the oldest resident at Homewood at Crumland Farms in Frederick.
"I just thank the Lord for giving me such a long life," she said last week. "And I'm so happy that all my family could come to be with me on my 110th birthday."
Longevity runs in the family, the former church organist said. "My grandmother came from Germany and had 12 children. They all lived a long time."
Families should stay together, Wheat said, through good times and bad times. Her family has seized every opportunity to be together over the years.
Wheat has three children: Janey Andrews, of Frederick; Richard Naylor, of York, Pa., and Frank Wheat, who lives in Florida. She has nine grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and five great-great- grandchildren.
Helen's youngest son, Frank, and 10 grandchildren flew in from Florida to be with her. The family planned a birthday event at her son Richard's winery in Pennsylvania, where she worked for a number of years, labeling wines.
She never tasted the wine "because it was corked," she said. "But I do now."
She drinks 4 ounces of red wine each day.
Frank Wheat talks to his mother twice a week, he said. They have a running dialogue. "She would ask me if I'd been to church. I would say no, and she would say, 'you better start.'"
Helen's granddaughter, Danielle White, said her grandmother remembers details about the lives of family members and often asks to be updated. She enjoys playing board games, and still defeats her descendants, White said.
When she was 107, Helen represented Homewood in the Golden Age Olympics, competing in a foam noodle hockey game against people 40 years younger.
She used to crotchet and read a lot, and she made cookies and taffy, she said. Her children and grandchildren remember her potpie and scrapple.
"After Thanksgiving, she would pick all the meat off the turkey bones and make a potpie and would eat it for the next couple of days," Andrews said.
She always had her home open to anybody, Frank Wheat said. She and her husband, William, raised 15 foster children.
Helen advises young people to pick their friends wisely. "Go to church and try to be honest in everything you do. Help others and believe in the Lord and pray," she said.
Her two favorite hymns are "Break Thou the Bread of Life" and "In the Garden."
Dina Carole, a WFRE radio personality, visited Helen on Friday to wish her a happy birthday.
"I want you to know I love the Lord and wine," Carole said, "so we have something in common. You are an inspiration, and I'll visit you next year for your 111th."
Helen grew up in York, Pa., and moved to Frederick four years ago to be closer to her daughter.
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