The Best Part About Living to 107 Is the Fancy Birthday Party

Illustration for article titled The Best Part About Living to 107 Is the Fancy Birthday Party

Juliana Koo is about to be 107, which means that she was born when Russia's last emperor was mucking his way through a war with the Japanese and Theodore Roosevelt's mustache was the U.S. president. On Sunday, according to the New York Times, her family threw her a preemptive 107th birthday party at the Pierre Hotel in New York, complete with a family dance choreographed by Jacques d'Ambroise and Kay Gaynor from the National Dance Institute that featured Koo's three-year-old step-great-great-grandchild. G.E. Smith, the lead guitarist in the band Hall & Oates, played. Koo danced with her son-in-law to something just a little up-tempo. It was magical.

Your first question is probably, "How do I have such a fancy birthday party?" After that, however, you'll probably ask, "How can I live to be 107? What's the secret? Does Juliana Koo have a special, top-secret rich person's diet consisting of golden Frosted Flakes for breakfast and ruby soup for dinner? Has she sworn off all legumes, even peanut butter?" Mrs. Koo's secret to aging really well is not nearly so mysterious, and, when asked, she offers it freely: "No exercise, eat as much butter as you like and never look backwards." According to a step-granddaughter, Koo also likes pork bellies, eschews medicine of all sorts (both Western and Chinese), and almost definitely has really good genes.

She also has a cruise ship's worth of relatives to keep track of, which must be its own kind of real-time crossword puzzle. Koo's family started throwing her birthday parties — of the choreographed, planned variety — in 1995 when she turned 90. That was after she'd already lived the sort of life ambitious directors like David Lean made epic movies about — she was born in Tianjin, China during the Russo-Japanese War, and her first husband died in Manila during World War II. Her second husband, Dr. V. K. Wellington Koo, was a Nationalist Chinese diplomat and prime minister. He also signed the charter that helped establish the United Nations, no big deal or anything.


The birthday festivities probably won't end anytime soon, either — one of Koo's daughters, Genevieve Young, who was once vice president and editorial director of Bantam Books, turns 82 on Tuesday.

Lessons of 107 Birthdays: Don't Exercise, Avoid Medicine and Never Look Back [NY Times]

Image via Mostovyi Sergii Igorevich/Shutterstock.

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My great aunt (on whom we're pretty sure the title character from Driving Miss Daisy is based, to give you a sense of her personality) lived to be 96. Actually, she died in her sleep on her 96th birthday. Her funeral was on the coldest day of the year, and she hated the cold. We joked, how many times did she say, "I'll go out in that weather over my dead body!"

The woman could never have enough chocolate. She was always full of life and demanding and made sure that everyone she was around knew her opinion. When my dad (her nephew) first introduced her to my mom, my great aunt took him aside and said, without a touch of irony, "If you let this one get away, I'll never speak to you again."

She was a really great woman. And she made really good chicken soup.