When asked about the secret to living a long life, St. Helena’s Midge Burns had a quick and succinct response: “Just keep laughing.”
And then, as she has so often over the last 100 years, she did just that.
Burns' 100th birthday is on June 26, but her fellow members of the Upper Napa Valley Republican Women celebrated it on Monday during their monthly luncheon at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Her friends praised her fun-loving personality, sense of humor and sharp wit, which they say hasn’t dulled a bit as she’s reached the century mark.
“She’s perky and she’s always in a good mood,” said Della Danner. “Everybody loves her. … She’s stayed in good health and she keeps up her social life.”
Burns keeps up with a multitude of friends and attends the Presbyterian Church on Spring Street every Sunday. A few years ago, she and the centenarian gentleman she was dating at the time dressed up like Dr. Seuss characters for a Halloween party.
Burns said she sits in her backyard every day and looks across the pool at the flowers on the other side.
“I think that’s what’s keeping me alive,” she said. “I like flowers and things that are pretty.”
Burns remembered when she was 7 and her mother gave her a tin of watercolor paints. “I’d sit on the back steps and paint in the yard,” she recalled.
Her mother’s gift inspired Burns’ lifelong interest in painting. Her watercolors were exhibited at Rianda House in 2014.
Jonathan Eastman, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, said many of his congregants started attending the church because they knew Burns and she’d told them, “You should come to church with me.”
Eastman called Burns “an incredible artist” who exudes a spirit of positivity and gratitude.
“Every Sunday she’ll share something that she’s grateful for,” he said. “It might be the music, or some flowers she saw, or a bird she saw on the way to church.”
When he arrived in St. Helena and was getting to know the church’s members, Burns told him that her goal every morning was to wake up and make someone smile.
“And she continues to do that,” Eastman said. “For someone to make a conscious decision to live that way – it’s wonderful.”
(This story has been corrected to reflect that Burns’ birthday is in June, but was celebrated at the Republican Women’s luncheon on Monday.)