Local Obituaries

She lived to be almost 113, and thought as Florida’s oldest. What was her secret?

At 109 she was still crocheting hats for newborns

Mazie Ford crocheted baby hats for Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood for newborns. She started at 100. Here she is at 109 doing what she loved.
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Mazie Ford crocheted baby hats for Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood for newborns. She started at 100. Here she is at 109 doing what she loved.

When Mazie Cherry Golin Ford died early Monday morning at 112 years and 312 days old, she was thought to be the oldest living person in Florida, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

“I’ve seen her birth certificate,” friend Marla Oxenhandler said.

The secret to her longevity?

“It’s hard to say what kept her going all these years, but I’d like to think it was her passion for crocheting hats for the newborns at the hospital that inspired her,” Oxenhandler said.

For years, into her second century, Ford delighted in making caps, blankets and hand-beaded head bands for newborns at Memorial Regional Hospital and for sick babies at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.

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Some of the hats Mazie Ford crocheted for the newborns at Memorial Healthcare. Courtesy Marla Oxenhandler

Oxenhandler met Ford when she worked at Memorial. And a lifetime friendship was born.

So she thinks of something else that could explain how Ford, who lived in Hallandale Beach since 1967, came to live to just seven weeks shy of her 113th birthday.

“I think that lipstick might be the key to longevity because Mazie always made sure she was wearing hers whenever guests were visiting. She’d even have it in her pocket to be ready to reapply. It may not be the lipstick itself but caring for her appearance was essential,” Oxenhandler said.

She could be on to something with that theory.

A social life

Being out and about — and giving — gave Ford life.

At 102, Ford orchestrated her own centenarian birthday party and handcrafted all the decorations, which included 50 intricately beaded butterflies, the Miami Herald wrote in 2008.

“Mom made all the decisions, I just executed it,” her daughter Johann Levinson, then 80, said at the time.

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Mazie Ford at 111 years old with her daughter, Johann Levinson, of Pompano Beach. Mazie was a resident of Hallandale Beach. She was born in Philadelphia on June 28, 1906. Courtesy Marla Oxenhandler/Johann Levinson

That same year, Ford decided she wanted to meet the recipients of her lovingly designed, colorful baby hats. She’d already helped make more than 200 caps, blankets and head bands for the babies with help from her daughter — “mostly mother,” Levinson said then — but she wanted to deepen that connection.

So, with assistance from the hospital’s volunteer services director who was inspired by her enthusiasm and selflessness, Mazie and Levinson got a private tour and spent time with the babies and their happy parents who fit Ford’s caps to their newborns’ heads.

“It’s very relaxing for me,” Ford told the Herald after the meeting. “I use my hands, my mind. I’m a giving person.”

Baby hats

She had always been creative, painting and making afghans for friends and family. She just decided to knit and crochet for charity when she turned 100 — and it felt so right.

Two years later, in 2008, the supercentenarian — a term generally used for people who live well past 100, typically to 110 and over — made some 30 pumpkin orange caps with green stems for Memorial hospital babies born around Halloween.

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Mazie Ford, 102, of Hallandale Beach, and her daughter Johann Levinson, 80, of Pompano, knit hundreds of caps, blankets and head bands for newborn and sick babies at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. Here, in this 2008 file photo, they pose with several items on display in the guest room where Ford enjoys watching television while she knits nearly every night. Eileen Soler Miami Herald File

“Yesterday, I made a little pink hat instead, looked at it and laughed. It made me feel good,” Ford had said.

“At her 100th birthday party, she gave all of her guests beaded butterflies that she made,” Levinson said in an obituary she prepared for her mom. “Shortly after that, she started crocheting blanket squares for an organization called Warm Up America. One day, when buying yarn at Michael’s, she met someone who was making hats for newborns at a nearby hospital. She decided to make that her focus.”

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Mazie Ford and the hats she crocheted for newborns. Courtesy Marla Oxenhandler

In 2008, she started crocheting hats for the newborns at Memorial Regional Hospital’s Family Birthplace. “Every month, she would come to the hospital with an overflowing bag of hats,” Levinson said.

Over the last 11 years Levinson estimates her mother donated about 5,000 hats up until her last hospital visit in late February.

“Imagine all the lives she touched with her handiwork. She’d often comment that every time she finished a hat, she’d look at it and smile. It really delighted her to be able to do this,” Levinson said.

Philadelphia-born

Ford was born in Philadelphia on June 28, 1906. She was the fifth of eight children born to Clara and Louis Cherry. She had credited her parents for her artistic creativity. Dad was an ornamental iron worker. Mom made all the children’s clothing. Ford outlived her siblings; the oldest sister lived to 95.

Ford married Harry Golin at 16, and they had two children — her daughter, Johann, and a son, Charles Golin, who predeceased her — and grew a neighborhood butcher shop into a wholesale meat business in the Philadelphia area where they supplied Kosher and non-Kosher meats. They moved to Hallandale Beach as snowbirds.

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In this Oct. 7, 2008, file photo Mazie Ford, then-102, of Hallandale Beach, and her daughter Johann Levinson, then-80, of Pompano, knitted hundreds of caps, blankets and head bands for newborn and sick babies at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. Here, in the guest room where Ford enjoyed watching television while she knit nearly every night, Ford showed a square she knitted long ago that started her philanthropic hobby. EILEEN SOLER Miami Herald File

After Golin died in 1978, Ford later married Newton Ford, who also died.

“Mazie was a very social person,” her daughter said. “She had many friends and loved to entertain — always with style.”

Hobbies, activities

Details mattered: flowers, dishes, silverware. All just so.

She had played tennis and golf and was a skilled bridge player, her daughter said. Mah-jongg, too.

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Mazie Ford, left, at 104, with her friend Marla Oxenhandler. Courtesy Marla Oxenhandler

“I’m so fortunate to have met Mazie 11 years ago,” Oxenhandler said. “Her love of life and the people around her was always impressive.”

Florida’s oldest woman

With Ford’s passing, the Gerontology Research Group lists Tampa’s Voncile Dry as the oldest Floridian at 112 years and 14 days.

“There’s no secret,” the Florida-born Dry told ABC Action News in 2018 when she was 110. “I just trying to be happy and loving everybody and go to my Sunday school.”

In addition to Levinson, Ford’s survivors include four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be at Mount Sharon Cemetery in Springfield, Pennsylvania, on May 14.

A fund is being established in Ford’s memory at Memorial Healthcare System’s Foundation. Funds will be designated for the Family Birthplace where Mazie donated her hats, Oxenhandler said.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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