Town Crier: Friends mark beloved centenarian’s birthday in Montclair

MONTCLARION: December 16, 2010

From “talkies” to texting — Elfie Larkin has seen it all in her last 100 years on this Earth. But one of her highlights has to be the surprise party thrown for her recently at the Oakland Zoo.

More than 160 of Larkin’s friends — including a collection of cousins from Sweden — gathered in the Snow Building on Dec. 7 for a grand celebration that included singing and dancing, a catered cocktail party and a military flag ceremony.

“I’m so amazed there are so many people here,” Larkin told the crowd, tearfully. “This is the proudest moment of my life.” I first wrote about Larkin in 2009, when she was still driving and volunteering at the Oakland Zoo. She was a docent for more than 32 years and revered by the staff and the volunteers.

But long before her volunteer stint at the zoo, she was one of the first women to sign up for the Coast Guard. She served for two years in World War II.

The night of her party, she credited her family and friends for her longevity. She’s estimated to be one of just 53,000 Americans who’ve reached their 100th birthday and one of less than 2 million World War II Veterans alive today.

Remarkably, she’s still as sharp as a tack. Or, in zoo terms, you might say she has the memory of an elephant. In any case, she has an answer for that, too, as she shared with me in 2009.

“God gave me a wonderful memory,” she says. “If you wonder what I’m doing sometimes, I’m sitting here remembering …reliving the experiences.

If you’d like to see a photo of Larkin and read her 2009 interview, see

GREAT NIGHT OUT: Here’s a sassy little gift for the holidays: The deliciously wicked adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Wild Bride” at the Berkeley Rep. It’s Disney meets “Devil Went Down to Georgia” — a foot-tapping musical journey of a girl and her prince as they tromp through a timeless tale of love and temptation. Catch it through Jan. 22.

AROUND TOWN: Among the many great gift shops in Montclair is the new ecolifestyle boutique Hatch. From jewelry to gingerbread men made out of soap — this is a fun store that has all the buzz words going for it: recycled, organic, sustainable and fair-trade. Owner Ashesh Patel says you can “friend” them on Facebook at

SILENT NIGHT: For 32 years, a group from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montclair has been caroling at the Rockridge BART station. This year, they’ll have to find another venue, thanks to construction inside the station.

“We’re thinking ‘flash mob’ this year to break up the tradition,” says singer Sara Evinger. Maybe we can convince them to come to the Village for a night or two to share their good cheer.


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