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'A light in this world:' Vibrant Cary woman celebrates 109th birthday

Posted January 29, 2021 5:01 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2021 6:14 p.m. EST

— How do you celebrate 109 years of life?

Virginia Van Peenen celebrated her 109th birthday on Friday – sitting in her colorful throne, the very vision of panache, wearing a purple boa and sparkling tiara, waving at a parade of cars passing her home.

At 109 years old, she's bursting with life – with a vibrant personality that can stop traffic, command a police escort and rouse adoring fans to shout through car windows.

Everyone in those cars loves Virginia.

Her dear friend Serena King says she embodies the very meaning of abundant life.

"Everybody who meets her absolutely loves her. She's a light in the world," said King.

Cary celebrates woman's 109th birthday.

Many wonder how she's lived such a long and energetic life.

Virginia drinks green tea every day – and a little red wine, when the mood strikes. She actively participates in Zoom meetings and Bible discussions with her church group – and she gives God the credit.

The women in her weekly Bible study group at the First United Methodist Church of Cary pulled off a lively drive-by birthday party, complete with a fire truck and police cars.

"A life of faith and a life filled with family and love" – that's how her life is described.

Over 109 years of life, she's seen and done a lot – earning a master's degree, teaching school, reading as many books as she pleases.

She celebrated a huge life milestone – her 100th birthday – nearly a decade ago! She's a girl from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who was 8 years old before women could even vote.

Cary celebrates woman's 109th birthday.

"We have joyfully had her birthday dinner every year since she turned 100," said King. "We just had to change things up a little bit this year."

Virginia lives with her daughter Linda Armstrong – and they take care of each other.

"I help take care of her. She helps take care of me," said Armstrong.

"She answers questions for me -- if I can't remember something, she remembers it," replied Virginia.

After 109 years of life, today, Virginia was royalty.

"I can't imagine all of this just for me," she says, and her eyes are sparkling from so much smiling.

So happy birthday, Virginia.

109 years old -- and still stopping traffic.

All of us are honored to make your acquaintance.

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