Marge Heaton is greeted by Mayor Del Jurney dur[auth] ing her 99th birthday celebration at Peachtree Village, Tuesday. Mark Wilson Photo
Tuesday was a special day for a special lady at Peachtree Village. Margaret “Marge” Heaton, one of the original 12 members of the retirement complex, celebrated her 99th birthday.
Friends gathered in the dining hall under the assumption that they were going to hear a speech given by Mayor Del Jurney. He was in fact in attendance, but instead of discussing town issues, he read off a proclamation and wished Heaton a happy birthday. Those gathered then serenaded Heaton with Happy Birthday to which she jokingly complained, “You did say ‘and many more’!”
Heaton was born in Boston during the summer of 1913. As a child, she and her family moved to Chicago, where she would eventually find the two loves of her life; her late husband and singing. After spending most of her adult life singing in barbershop harmony in quartets and award-winning choruses in Chicago, Heaton and her husband moved to Roswell, bringing her musical talents with her.
The couple saw an ad in the Chicago Tribune advertising for retirees to come to Roswell and Heaton said they wanted to move some place out of the ordinary and away from the Chicago humidity.
“We didn’t know anything about Roswell and we didn’t know anything about New Mexico,” she said. “We had friends that had moved to Rowell, so my husband wrote them a letter saying please give us your unbiased opinion of Roswell. So we got the nicest letter back from them. They said ‘no place is paradise, but as far as we’re concerned, Roswell is our paradise.’”
She recalled arriving to Roswell during the summer of 1977 and being impressed by the number of activities there were for senior citizens. She and her husband participated in various activities, but her love for barbershop harmony music never diminished. In August of 1979, Heaton went to the Chamber of Commerce to inquire if a there was a need for a singing group to perform at local events. On Sept. 5, 1979, the Enchanters were born as 19 singers made their way to the Hospitality House in Cahoon Park. Since then, Heaton has been instrumental in keeping the group alive, from finding directors, to scheduling rehearsals, to finding venues, tasks she said have not always been easy.
Longtime Enchanter Karen Nelson has enjoyed her time spent with the group and with Heaton.
“It’s very relaxing and fun,” she said. “Oh Marge is a doll and we just love her.”
Heaton was living alone after her husband passed, and after being robbed twice, she said she wanted to go live some place she felt safe. In 1999 she moved to Peachtree Village and has been there ever since. Though she’s a key figure at the Village, she said she really does not feel she deserves all the extra attention or the living room area renamed in her honor.
“When they told me yesterday, I thought Oh my gosh, I don’t deserve this,” she said. “We got a lot of July birthdays to celebrate, why me?”
Director Marybeth Lawrence disagrees. Though she’s only been at the home for five weeks, she said Heaton has impacted her life and touches the lives of all those that live there.
“She, at her age, has a lot of energy and compassion for all the residents. She looks out for everyone. That’s something that people lose over a period of time, as they get older they don’t care, but every day she has a smile on her face and she just makes you feel special. She still is living life and making a difference and inspiring other people.”