At 109, Hudson icon celebrates 12-12-12 birthday for a second time

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- An iconic resident celebrated her birthday on 12-12-12 for the second time in her life.

The date with three 12s only occurs once every 100 years, and Ada Cooper Miller turned 9 when she celebrated her birthday on Dec. 12, 1912.

One hundred years later, she celebrated her 109th birthday Dec. 12, 2012, at Hudson Elms, where she now lives. She enjoyed cake and visits from friends, community members, and city officials, including Mayor William Currin.

Ada, born in Southampton, England, arrived in Hudson when she was 3 months old in 1904 with her mother, Annie, half-brother, William, and sister, Kathleen, to join their father, Harry Cooper, a trained landscape gardener who worked for James Ellsworth on his "Evamere" estate. Ellsworth, a wealthy benefactor of Hudson, helped to revive the town and Western Reserve Academy in the early 20th century.

Ada graduated from Western Reserve Academy in 1924 and is its oldest graduate.

"I'm Ada Cooper Miller," Ada answers when asked who she is.

She is unassuming and non-promoting, which may be the key to her longevity. She doesn't think about what she hasn't done or will do.

"I live from day to day," she said.

Ada's family's home was moved from Aurora Street to Franklin Street in 1913, and her mother worked in the greenhouse. Ada married Lloyd Miller in 1927 and began to help her mother with flower arrangements in the Cooper's Flower Shop and Greenhouse, something she would continue to do until she retired and moved to The Elms Assisted Living Facility in Hudson in 2003.

She was known as the "flower lady" and handled the flowers for weddings, dances, WRA, the Hudson Garden Club and Christ Church Episcopal.

The greenhouse was the place to go for many Hudsonites. Some helped with the flower arrangements while others just watched.

"I was always at her house," said Kay Weidenthal, a friend of Ada's daughter, Nancy. "It was more fun to play in the greenhouse. We had access to all those ribbons."

Shirley Noe was a neighbor for many years, and Ada taught her to make boxwood wreaths. She helped prepare flowers for Ada for 30 years by cutting and wrapping them and called herself a "scrub nurse."

"Ada would throw them together," Noe said about the arrangements.

No task was too daunting for Ada. She once had three weddings on one Saturday. Another time missing plaster was covered up in a church with a fern, and when Noe's son married, Ada delivered the flowers to Pennsylvania so they would be fresh.

For years Noe's husband cut a hole in the hedge that separated the two driveways so she would have a shortcut to Ada's house.

Minnie Wagner, former owner of Leo's Reserve Inn, said she has known Ada most of her life and, at 93 herself, she is amazed by Ada's energy.

"I'll never catch up to Ada," Wagner said. "She keeps running away from me."

Wagner didn't work at the greenhouse, but she was a frequent visitor who enjoyed watching Ada work and catching up on all the latest social news.

"She knew who was getting married and what they were wearing," Wagner said. "Everyone hanged out at the flower shop."

Ada said there is no secret to her arrangements.

"It just goes together," she said. "I put [flowers] together every day."

In 1938 Ada was elected to the Hudson School Board and served 40 years, including as president from 1954 to 1963. The natatorium in East Woods Elementary School is named after her.

Janet Marshall's father was superintendent of the schools when Ada was president of the School Board, and she was close to Ada's daughter. Her 1950 graduating class had 28 students.

"Hudson was small enough everyone knew everyone else," Marshall said.

"It was a wonderful place to live," Ada added.

Marty Hills followed Ada on the School Board and considers her a mentor.

Ada loves life and has been devoted to helping people, Hills said.

Trish Forkel has lived in Ada's house on Franklin Street the past two years and opened it up for the Home and Garden Tour this year. Ada visited her old home, which Forkel describes as a "happy place."

Joan Brandon met Ada on the Garden Club 47 years ago.

"She was always accepting and helpful," Brandon said. "We had laughter together."

Nancy Schweikert met Ada in 1966 when she welcomed her into the Garden Club. Ada did so many weddings, mothers had to clear a date with Ada to make sure she was free that day.

"She relates well to every age group," Schweikert said. "One of the neatest things about her is she's always cheerful and positive."

Ada has lived an active life and continues to play cards, Bingo and watch movies at the Elms.

One of her favorites is "Grumpy Old Men" but none of her countless friends have heard a harsh word from Ada. She likes everyone.

Ada enjoyed her birthday party, welcoming guests as they gave her cards and presents. She had gone to the beauty parlor, which she enjoys, and was wearing a special outfit that made many guests remark that she didn't look 109.

"I haven't got old," Ada said. "I don't feel old so I'm not old."

Elms resident Sandra Clewell said she plays Bingo with Ada, and she does very well.

"I think she's amazing for her age," Clewell said.

Elms resident Nancy Hillock sits across from Ada at meals.

"She eats everything, I kid you not," Hillock said.

Elms resident Josie Gruden talks with Ada whenever she sees her.

"She's a nice lady," Gruden added.

Mayor Currin and his wife, Deborah, visited the birthday party. Ada has lived her entire life in Hudson, nearly half the time Hudson has existed, he said.

"When I think of Hudson residents, Ada always comes to mind," Currin said. "Her life is well lived, and she is a quality person."

Currin, who has served 27 years as an elected official, pointed out that Ada is the longest elected official in Hudson's history with 40 years on the School Board.

HCTV show host Frank Youngwerth was taping the birthday for a special "Good Day in Hudson" to air in January.

"She looks terrific," Youngwerth said. "How could you not be inspired by her?"

The city website www.hudson.oh.us has two tributes to Ada by HCTV: a 1999 Tribute to Ada and Hudson Profile: Ada Cooper Miller.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

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