On her 112th birthday on Monday, the oldest Nebraskan was surrounded by old friends.
Well, not longtime friends, but certainly old ones — nice folks in their 80s and 90s, or “seniors” in today’s vernacular.
Thelma Sutcliffe, born Oct. 1, 1906, in what was then the town of Benson, wore a colorful wrist corsage and a black and gray outfit at the Brighton Gardens of Omaha, a senior living center at 9220 Western Ave.
About 90 people, most of them Brighton residents, attended her birthday party. A printed sign with gold letters on a gray background spelled out her characteristics, each starting with a letter in her name:
Though her name doesn’t show up on all lists of the oldest Americans, her age apparently makes her about the 11th-oldest alive today out of 325 million.
“It’s a lot of years,” she said. “But I feel fine.”
Thelma grew up in Benson, annexed by Omaha in 1917, and married at 17. She and her husband, who died in the early 1970s, had no children.
“She’s a wonderful lady,” said her nephew, the Rev. Warren Jacobson, 91, of Sun City, Arizona, a retired Church of God minister.
Longevity runs in the family. His mother, Marie, Thelma’s sister, died in Arizona at 106, just before her 107th birthday.
E.A. Kral of Wilber, Nebraska, who keeps track of age records, said Thelma is the 12th-oldest Nebraskan on record in the state’s history. The oldest was Clara Herling Huhn, born near Clarkson, Nebraska, who later lived in California and died at 113 years and 327 days.
The oldest American, according to the Gerontology Research Center, is Georgia-born Lessie Brown, 114, of Cleveland.
Thelma, who has a badge showing that she worked for the War Department in the 1940s, is a lifelong Cornhusker. Her father was a farmer.
“I was born and raised here,” she said in strong voice. “I’ve never lived a day anywhere else.”
When it came time to blow out the candles on her birthday cake, she got a little help from her nephew and from Tamera Trudell, the Brighton Gardens activity director.
Thelma was an avid bridge player when she lived at Elmwood Tower, even when she became a supercentenarian at age 110. She moved to Brighton Gardens last year.
The 112-year-old doesn’t look like she’s going anywhere. One more year, after all, and she’s a teenager again.