Chateau at Rifle resident Matty Baker celebrates 104 years
It is fitting for Matilda “Matty” Baker to celebrate her birthday just days before the nation’s birthday, because at 104 she is a real firecracker.
Vibrant as someone at least 20 years her junior, Baker was the center of attention last Saturday during the annual 4th of July celebration at the senior living establishment on the north side of Rifle.
Not your typical 104-year-old, until the last few months she had been walking a quarter mile twice a day around the facility with only a little help from a cane.
“It’s staggering, especially since she is so healthy,” her daughter and Basalt resident Maury Kaplin said. “People laugh when they ask, ‘How’s your mom,’ and I say her memory is starting to not be as good as it was — they look at me like I’m crazy. … She’s 104.
“She has been so sharp all along. She just goes on and on,” Kaplin said.
Recently, Baker began using a walker, but she will be the first to tell you she can still get around without it.
She said it comes in handy to pack around her tissue and serves as a purse to carry her personal items including a wallet, in which she still carries old photos of her children.
“According to the way it is, I can feel the age coming on, I can find things I used to do with ease difficult to handle, but I do it and I try to do it as best I can,” Baker said.
Surrounded by her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, grandson-in-law, two of her 15 great-grandchildren and all the residents and their families of Chateau at Rifle, a stunned Matty could only smile and try to hold back tears as she was given a birthday honor by the Colorado Commission on Aging.
Baker says she knew nothing about the surprise party for her 104th birthday.
In tribute to her 100 plus years of life, CCOA representative Chad Federwitz presented Baker with a framed certificate signed by Gov. Jared Polis.
“A hundred years of perspective, that’s amazing — 104 is even more amazing,” Federwitz said. “I think this award and honor of recognizing centenarians or people who live longer is another aspect of honoring how we as a state value older adults, It’s an opportunity to really reflect and look back at history, hear their perspectives.”
Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton was also on hand to celebrate with Baker and her family as well.
“One hundred and four is very impressive,” Clifton said. “I think it is really important that we celebrate aging, and that we show its importance. Older people are valued, and they have a lot to contribute.”
A LIFE LIVED ‘MY WAY’
A resident of Chateau at Rifle for two-and-half years now, Baker is enjoying living the best life she can at her age.
She was born and raised on Long Island, hailing from Huntington, New York, approximately 40 miles from New York City, where she started her career.
“I lived in Manhattan, on 34th Street and 2nd Avenue overlooking the East River,” Baker said. “I had quite a tour.”
She was a dancer and taught dance until she was married, moved to New Jersey, and started her family. There, she and her husband, Bill, raised their three children, two boys and a daughter.
After losing her husband of 66 years, she went back to work.
“I got a job as an office manager at Bellevue Hospital in New York City,” Baker said.
She worked at the hospital for almost 10 years before retiring at the age of 71.
Living on her own after retirement, with only a little help during the daytime, Baker’s children thought she needed someone there with her at night, as well.
“I have a theory that everybody has got their own place. I love my children dearly, but I will not live with any of them — their life is theirs to live, and I’ll live mine,” she said.
“I fought it for a while, then my daughter insisted I come out here and stay with her.”
Kaplin and her husband Gerry, who retired to Basalt, talked Baker into moving to Colorado to be closer to them.
“We promised if she came out to establish Colorado residency, we would look for an assisted living residence for her — which we did,” Kaplin said.
Baker moved to Roaring Fork Valley in September 2016, and lived with her daughter and son in law for about four and half months. The family looked around the valley trying to find the closest place to the family’s Basalt home.
“We found the Chateau, and here I am, very content and delighted to make my own home, and do as I please,” Baker said.
Kaplin said that when they first came to visit the Chateau, everyone was welcoming and said hello to her mother. She remembers her mother saying she liked the place. It felt comfortable and friendly.
“It will be three years February first,” Kaplin said.
Kaplin and her mother say the place is a delight, she loves the staff and everyone has been great.
“I’m very content to be here,” Baker said.
LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME
For Baker, a year ago when she turned 103 it seemed hard to face 104, and the same feeling comes over her as people begin to talk about her 105th birthday.
“It doesn’t seem possible, but what will be will be,” Baker said.
“I live from day to day. People come to me often and they ask me what did I do to obtain this age. Nothing unusual, I lived a normal life, I ate what I wanted to eat and I still do. I’m not on any diets, and if I don’t like it, I don’t eat it. If I like it, I order it.”
Everyone at the Chateau has fallen in love with Matty Baker.
To many residents at the Chateau, she is known as momma, because she is old enough to be some residents’ mother.
“We love our momma, our grandmother and to some of us our great-grandmother,” said Chateau Executive Director Sonya Vick.
“She is my inspiration. I think she is everybody’s inspiration here at the facility. We all want to be like Matty,” Vick said.
Always the feisty one, Baker had a few parting words for family as the party came to a close Saturday.
“I once told my daughter, when I go, don’t cry over me, be happy I lived this long and had the life I lived, but don’t cry.”
To which she said Kaplin replied, “What if I do?”
“I’ll come back,” Baker said with a laugh that filled the room.
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