Fran Broughton is sitting in a recliner, clutching a "Happy Birthday" balloon in one hand, her eyeglasses in another.
"So what’s the secret to reaching your 102nd birthday?’’
Fran stares at the person who asked the question, her eyes narrow slightly, as if to say, "Hey, I’m old. Not stupid.’’
Finally, she provides a succinct answer.
"I don’t have any secret,’’ she says, dismissing the notion.
The scene is the living room of Class Act Assisted Living Home in Mesa. Six of the 10 residents, along with the staff, a TV reporter and myself have gathered to help celebrate Fran’s 102nd birthday.
Fran was born on Oct. 15, 1903, which means it is a belated birthday celebration — which just doesn’t seem right, when you think about it.
The party was the idea of Cindy LaLuna, who started work at Class Act on the day that Fran moved into the facility almost four years ago.
"I told her we would learn the ropes together,’’ LaLuna said.
LaLuna brought in balloons and enough food to feed an army for the occasion.
But there is one problem: Fran doesn’t want any part of it.
"I didn’t want any of this stuff,’’ she says flatly. "What’s the big deal?’’
This response does little to dampen the enthusiasm of the staff or her fellow residents. To them, Fran is an endless source of amazement. So, protests aside, they celebrate Fran’s birthday.
Finally, the inevitably question is posed: What does it feel like to be 102?
"What does it feel like?’’ Fran says. "I don’t know. Nothing special.’’
Born in Minnesota, Fran never worked outside the home. She and her husband lived most of their lives in Glen Falls, N.Y., before moving to Scottsdale 30 years ago. Now a widow, Fran is the most senior resident at Class Act.
And the most independent, too.
"She doesn’t take any medicine. She dresses herself. She’s bright, alert,’’ says Rhea Richards, owner of the home. "She loves to watch sports on TV and does two crossword puzzles a day.’’
I asked her how many presidents she voted for.
"None,’’ she says.
"Oh,’’ says a staffer. "Were women allowed to vote when you were a young woman?’’
"Well, why wouldn’t they be?’’ she responds.
"Women couldn’t vote at one time,’’ the staffer explains. Fran was 17 when American women were granted voting rights.
Fran leans forward, her keen eyes shine with outrage.
"Whoever heard of such nonsense?’’ she says.
The outrage over women’s suffrage has distracted Fran, which is a relief to LaLuna.
"She’s going to let me have it for throwing this party,’’ LaLuna says, smiling impishly.
Happy birthday, Fran.