Celebrating 100 years of life is a tremendous feat in and of itself, but Charlotte Gallant isn’t slowing down. On July 27, the Delaware resident celebrated her 103rd birthday with friends and family at her residence in Willow Brook Christian Village.
An indoor celebration was held with fellow residents, followed by an outdoor visit with family, and a drive-by parade from her community friends.
“It was something,” Gallant said of the festivities. “I think there were about 16 cars that went past (in the parade). I was impressed … How can I explain how wonderful it is that I was able to do that? Not everyone gets a chance to experience something like that.”
Gallant remains sharp for her age, which, in part, can be credited to her staying relatively active and dedicated to her daily exercises at Willow Brook.
“At 103 years old, almost every day she does the exercises and therapy to keep her strong,” said Connie McNeal, the activities director at Willow Brook.
As for the sheer length of life she has enjoyed, Gallant said both her parents lived into their mid-80s, quite the long life for the time period in which they lived. She added, “I kept busy after I retired, and I’ve done a lot of volunteering, which keeps me going strong.”
With her life spanning more than a century, Gallant has experienced every major event the country has seen in the 20th and 21st centuries. Asked what moments in time she most remembers, Gallant singled out World War II as a particular moment that stands out to her.
Having worked as a children’s librarian earlier in life, Gallant said one thing that always resonated with her was that all the events she used to read in books, events that were set in the future, she ended up seeing play out in her life. One of those moments that stood out in particular, she said, was humans traveling to the moon.
Born in 1917, Gallant is now living in the midst of her second global pandemic; the Spanish Flu broke out during her infancy in 1918. Although she lost a family member to the Spanish Flu, Gallant said she is unable to compare the Spanish Flu to the COVID-19 pandemic because she doesn’t have any recollection of how the Spanish Flu altered life as it was then known. Everything after the flu, as she grew up, was just a part of everyday life, she said.
Gallant’s impact on the Delaware community continues on today, although the people who enjoy that impact daily might not have yet made the association. Gallant Woods Park, which opened in 2005 and is located at 2151 Buttermilk Road in Delaware, is part of the Preservation Parks of Delaware County system. Most of the land — approximately 94 acres, Gallant said — was family land that was donated to Preservation Parks by Gallant. An anonymous donor provided the funds to purchase 101 adjoining acres, and Preservation Parks purchased an additional 47 acres of adjoining properties to bring Gallant Woods to a total of 231 acres.
Gallant said the decision to donate the land was a matter of sharing her own passion, as well as the need for more parkland in the county.
“I like to walk in the woods, myself,” Gallant said of why she wanted to donate the land. “I lucked out that at that time, someone in Delaware County wanted to do something about the park system … Thanks to Rita Au, who had a vision of a park in every corner of the county, that has come true.”
Gallant said it is “exciting to see the different phases of the year” expressed through the visuals of the outdoors, which always resonated with her. She said that as she reflects on her 100-plus years of life and where she has found the most value in them, the donation of the land to a cause that everyone can enjoy remains at the top of the list.
“Knowing that the donation will give forever, beyond her, means a lot to her,” McNeal said.
Gallant went on to say of having a lasting impact, “Not everyone has the chance to do something like that.”