Mabel Brazil loves to chat.
At 89 years old, and about to mark her 90th birthday on June 20, the Macclenny resident for the last 42 years has many stories to tell.
There’s how she met her husband of 65 years, the late Dallas Brazil, at 16 years old in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville while roller skating around big rose garden.
“Him and his brother-in-law were sitting on a park bench just doing nothing,” she remembers. “We struck up a conversation and went from there. From there all the way to here.”
Then there’s the 10 years Ms. Brazil spent in a dance troupe, “The Charmers,” performing 1920s-era-flapper shows for woman’s clubs and other groups both here and in Georgia during the 1990s.
“One time we had back-to-back shows for five days,” she recalled.
Or how she and her husband moved to Baker County in 1970 following his retirement from the railroad. They later bought the College Street house where Ms. Brazil still resides, an historic structure built in 1901 and restored by her husband.
“He was a good husband, a good provider, a good moral person,” she said of Mr. Brazil. “He had a good reputation. He never did things like drinking and gambling that a lot of people do now. He was a good man.”
Ms. Brazil never sought a career, or even learned to drive. She sold her husband’s Buick after his death eight years ago. But she did work at a cigar factory and held other odd jobs.
“It was just whatever I wanted to do,” she said. “I was spoiled, I think.”
Entertaining others with song and dance has always excited Ms. Brazil, however. She remembers joining friends from the Woman’s Club on visits to local nursing homes and performing for residents.
“We had wonderful time,” she said. “Every Monday morning we would go to the nursing home. She (Faye Milton) would play the piano and we would sing. The residents would come into the dining room and we would have great fellowship with them.”
Ms. Brazil also lights up when she speaks of her only son, a former Secret Service agent now 70 years old, and how he met a handful of Presidents during his career in the federal government.
Since her husband’s death, Ms. Brazil has begun to slow down more and make other adjustments.
“If I feel good, I’ll go somewhere,” said Ms. Brazil. “If I don’t, you know, I just have to go with the way I feel. I have to turn down a lot of invitations to go places, and I don’t like that. I wish I could go.”
Her health is increasingly becoming an obstacle, particularly her two bad knees. She knows they can be replaced, but she doesn’t welcome the pain of surgery.
“It’s not been too good since I’ve gotten old and sick,” she said. “When I was able to go and do, I did a lot. I loved it after I got acquainted with people here.”
But despite her growing TV addiction, which Ms. Brazil laments, she still ventures out on occasion.
She said she enjoys playing bingo at the Council on Aging, shopping, sharing lunch with “the girls,” attending church at First Baptist of Macclenny and participating in Woman’s Club functions.
The club is throwing her a birthday party on Saturday, June 16 at the clubhouse at 3 pm. She tried to say no, but fellow club members insisted. And she’s looking forward to it.
“I am so much better in the last two weeks than I’ve been in a long time,” said Ms. Brazil. “I’m walking better, breathing better. My mind’s clearer.”
There’s no secret to longevity, she said, but living a clean life, being a moral person and being happy can go a long way.
“Nobody thinks I’m 90,” said Ms. Brazil. “At church, everywhere I go, they don’t think so ... But no. There’s no secrets. It’s just good genes, I guess, and I just praise the Lord for it. He’s good and He’s blessed me in so many ways.”
In fact, her doctor once told her she’d live to be 100 years old. Ms. Brazil isn’t sure she wants to hit the century mark, but she’s hoping her hair dresser returns from vacation before her party on Saturday.