From Switzerland to Santa Clarita, family and friends came from near and far to celebrate an incredible milestone in Ann DeGraaf’s life: her 100th birthday.
DeGraaf said it felt no different to be 100, and even with a broken foot, she was excited to join in the festivities, tearing up when she saw those who’d come to celebrate her at the Santa Clarita Post-Acute Care Center in Newhall.
“I worked always and that kept me young and going,” DeGraaf said of the milestone birthday.
Born on Oct. 5, 1921, DeGraaf grew up in the Netherlands and married her husband, Peter, when she was 17.
Through the years, DeGraaf worked as a homemaker, in retail and cosmetics, and as co-owner of Pete’s TV, a TV repair store she ran with her husband for years in Utah.
In her 100 years, DeGraaf has faced many challenges, including living through the Nazi occupation of her homeland during World War II.
“It was a dangerous time, especially for the Jewish people,” DeGraaf said, adding that Peter worked with the Dutch resistance, helping to hide people from German authorities.
However, DeGraaf’s 100 years have also brought with them many joys, including her longtime marriage and large family.
The DeGraafs were married nearly 72 years before Peter died. The couple had four children, 41 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren.
It was after the war in 1953 that the DeGraafs immigrated to the U.S. aboard the SS Ryndam, a ship that played a major role in post-war immigration from Europe.
The DeGraafs then traveled from New York to Utah, where they lived for many years before moving to California to be close to the beach.
While her children all cannot believe their mother was celebrating such a milestone birthday, they were all happy to be doing just that.
“You can’t miss the 100th,” said Angela Janoschek, who traveled from Switzerland with her 5-year-old daughter Mia for her grandmother’s birthday. “(Mia) has fall break, and we were like, ‘It’s perfect to come.’”