Woman celebrates 109th birthday on the lake

Hazel Nilson waits near the dock for her ride back to Sunapee Cove Assisted Living with Tara Gorman, a family friend from Duluth, Minnesota. — TIMOTHY LAROCHE

SUNAPEE — Few ties still remain to the world as it was in 1908. Technological revolutions changed the way we communicate, political upheavals have built and broken empires and two world wars forever altered a generation. But Hazel Nilson is still going strong.

Advertisement: Content continues below...

Nilson celebrated her birthday on Monday in the Cove View room of Sunapee Cove Assisted Living. Around the dining area, 109 multicolored balloons decorated the tables and chairs — one balloon for each year since Nilson’s 1908 birth.

When Nilson blew out the candles on her birthday cake, she was all smiles and gratitude, thanking everyone who helped orchestrate such a birthday celebration.

The Lake Sunapee Signers even came to celebrate with Nilson — piling into the now crowded dining room for a few songs. One singer crooned an adapted version of the 1934 song, “Moonglow” written by Eddie De Lang.

“It must have been Hazel, way up in the blue. It must have been Hazel, that led me to you,” he sang, noting the oncoming eclipse.

The rest of the singers followed suit with a rendition of “You Make Me Feel So Young” by Mack Gordon. When the two songs came out, 1934 and 1946, Nilson had already reached her respective 26th and 38th birthdays.

It’s clear that in 109 years, Nilson has seen a lot. But until Monday, she had never seen the clear water of Lake Sunapee from anywhere farther than the shore. Before all the singing, cake and candles, in the growing heat of the August morning, Nilson finally got her opportunity.

A small American flag waved from the top of a boat as it approached the dock at the Sargent’s Marina. As the boat drifted closer, the word “Police” became more visible. Just an hour and a half prior, that same boat left the dock with Nilson, a few friends and officers from the Sunapee Police Department.

For a special birthday gift, Sunapee Police brought Nilson on a cruise across the lake. Upon stepping back to land, even a few nearby kayakers paddled over to wish Nilson a “happy birthday.”

But that’s not to say that this was her first experience with water. For about 60 years, Nilson lived just near another lake in Stone Lake, Wisconsin.

“It was great, I enjoyed it. It made me think of home,” Nilson said of her boat ride.

With a family friend, Tara Gorman, supporting Nilson on the shore, she reminisced. Her house in Wisconsin was the closest to the waterfront on the lake, she said. Nilson recalled wading into the water and having minnows nip at her legs. She only went fishing with her husband once, she said, and afterwards said “never again.”


Download the DailyUV app today!