Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lutz woman celebrates 101st birthday


They call her "Granny," this small bundle of humor, wit and strength, who stood up after a bone fracture and walked to her 101st birthday party last week in Lutz. She sat on a striped couch, holding the hand of her friend Phyllis Dent as a soloist serenaded her and her guests with old standards and spirituals. She tapped her black loafer-clad feet and clapped her hands along with When the Saints Go Marching In.

"We have a very special lady here today, Harriette Gurney," the soloist, George Spero said. "Happy birthday, dear!"

"Thank you!" Gurney said.

Special indeed. In a state with few natives, Gurney is an exception. She was born in 1909 and raised as an only child in Tampa's first official suburb, Seminole Heights.

Gurney worked as a cashier at Maas Brothers, Tampa's homegrown department store that eventually became Burdines. She clocked in at the local grocery store until she had two children and became a homemaker. She moved to Horizon Bay, an assisted-living facility north of Tampa, in 2007.

Gurney lived during some colorful times in Tampa history, its cigar industry boom times, devastating fires, factory strikes and organized crime. She once told Horizon Bay residents that her most memorable moments were her wedding and her 90th birthday.

But on her 101st birthday, what does she remember?

"All of it," she said.

How's she doing?

"I've been worse, I've been better," she said.

What's changed the most in Tampa since her birth?

"Me," she said simply.

Her words flow a bit easier when talking about Dent, whom she met at dinner one day and hasn't separated from much since.

"I don't like her at all," Gurney joked, then leaned to grab Dent's hand.

"Well, see if I do anything for you anymore," said Dent, 85.

"She's one of my best friends," Gurney declared.

Ashley Gordon, Horizon's resident program director, put on the party.

"I'd do anything for her," Gordon said. "She's such a delight."

At moments during Spero's performance, Gurney happily sang along with tunes that dated to the early years of her marriage, some ditties that sparked full-scale sing-alongs. She nibbled on pizza rolls and sipped punch. She said she enjoyed herself.

"I'd be bad if I didn't," she said.

Jessica Raynor can be reached at

Lutz woman celebrates 101st birthday 03/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort


    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Was it a crime? 10 patients at nursing home died after Irma


    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A 10th elderly patient has died after being kept inside a nursing home that turned into a sweatbox when Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning for three days, even though just across the street was a fully functioning and cooled hospital.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  3. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us


    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on display, and it brought illness and death.

    Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Facebook to release Russia ads to Congress amid pressure

    NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators.