Friends gather to give 105-year-old Mary Cantway happy birthday

Mary Cantway, center, was presented with a special birthday gift — 105 gold dollars — by H-F Racquet & Fitness Club staff members Edy Hager, left, and Tara Lindzy, right, in honor of Cantway's 105th birthday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
  Mary Cantway, center, was presented with a special
birthday gift —105 gold dollars — by H-F Racquet &
Fitness Club staff members Edy Hager, left, and
Tara Lindzy, right, in honor of Cantway's 105th
birthday.
 (Photos by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
 
Mary Cantway stuck her head into the water aerobics class at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club to hear her friends serenade her with happy birthday wishes as she turned 105 years old.
 
Others did 105 jumping jacks in her honor, and still others congratulated her as they enjoyed a slice of birthday cake at a small party in the lobby on Monday, Sept. 30.
Members of the Homewood-Flossmoor Racquet & Fitness Club did 105 jumping jacks in honor of Mary Cantway's 105th birthday.
  Members of the H-F Racquet &
  Fitness Club did 105 jumping
  jacks in honor of Mary Cantway's
  105th birthday.
 

After being a member at the racquet club for more than 40 years, the people around Mary — young and old — are family to her.  Each marvels at Mary’s get-up-and-go spirit.

Although she admits “it’s getting harder to come here” she still spends time in the pool and working out on the exercise machines about an hour a day four or five times a week. She drives herself to the club.
 
What’s her secret to being 105? 

“I wish I knew,” she tells her friends. Her doctor advises her to just keep doing what she’s doing. “I had some pain in my hip recently, but it went away,” she said. 

Mary Cantway welcomes friends Jane Robinson, center, and Pat Boysen, right, to her 105th birthday celebration at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.
  Mary Cantway welcomes
  friends Jane Robinson, center,
  and Pat Boysen, right, to her
  105th birthday celebration
  at H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.

 
Barb Ferrari, a 25-year employee at the club, said: “I haven’t noticed a change in Mary in many years. She has a great commitment. This is her extended family. I use her as an inspiration when I teach wellness classes because if she can be here five days a week at 105 years old, none of us has excuses.”
 
Candy Schmidt of Blue Island met Mary at a class in 2009. 

“She’s amazing. She drives, and the makeup, the hair. Our conversations are phenomenal. You name the subject. She’s a nice lady. She’s not missing a trick, and there’s not a thing wrong with her.”
 
Mary has lived in Homewood for more than 60 years. Longtime Homewood residents may remember Cantway as a 10-year staff member at the former Community Pharmacy at the northeast corner of Ridge and Dixie. Her next position was in the admitting department at South Suburban Hospital. She retired in 1990 at age 75 after 15 years on staff.
 
When her family had a birthday party for her a few weeks ago, she had a group of friends from the hospital who joined her, as did many staff members from the racquet club, friends from church and relatives who came from other states to be part of the celebration. She was given a crown for the day, but only had to blow out 10 candles on the cake.
 
Her granddaughter, Lauren Becker, said her grandma is slowing down, “but she’s still pretty amazing. I walk my puppy. Grandma’s got a whole exercise routine.”
 

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