106 Years and Counting: Vaddie Todd Shares Her Story

    It is no secret what God can do. I consider myself to be one of His miracles. I am only here because He has a reason for me to be here so long, and I thank Him for that.”

Several weeks ago, Vaddie Todd was the guest of honor at McGregor’s annual Centenarian Celebration.

A centenarian is anyone who has lived to be 100 years of age or older. At the ripe age of 106, Vaddie has lived a very interesting life and has learned many lessons that she would like to share with others as her legacy before she passes on.

Vaddie was born in Birmingham, Alabama on March 21, 1917– right in the middle of both the Jim Crow Era and World War I.

Before leaving Birmingham, Vaddie graduated from Industrial High School in 1935. At the time, Industrial High School was the only high school in Birmingham that black people were allowed to attend.

Industrial High School emphasized both academic and vocational training in their education. Like other all-black schools, teachers at Industrial High School not only taught subject matter, but also gave life lessons to build student’s self-esteem and capabilities for coping in the real, segregated world outside of the classroom.

After learning these vital lessons, Vaddie graduated and moved to Cleveland, OH, where she worked for several years as a domestic worker. This role ultimately served as a steppingstone for Vaddie, eventually granting her the opportunity to attend cosmetology school. After graduating cosmetology school, Vaddie owned and operated her own beauty shop in Cleveland for almost 15 years.

Serving her community in the beauty shop was an especially formative endeavor for Vaddie. When asked about the legacy she wants to leave, she said, “I’ve endeavored to live my life in a way that would be meaningful, possibly encouraging, to young people…Because even though I only knew domestic work for years, it led me to get involved in something else and move my life in a different and better direction.”

It was in the beauty shop where Vaddie learned the values that became paramount throughout the rest of her life. “I believe in honesty. I believe in fairness. I believe in being the best you can be,” Vaddie explained. “The most important thing to me is the values of life. Your values are more important than anything else, even money.”

In addition to owning a beauty shop, Vaddie contributed to the business scene in Cleveland by earning a degree in business from Whiting Business College, working at the American Greetings Company, and serving at the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, all before retiring in 1982.

After her retirement, Vaddie continued to serve her community by mentoring students through the Senior Citizen Tutoring Program, serving as a resident advocate with the Cuyahoga County Housing Authority, and volunteering at several senior living communities throughout greater Cleveland.

Today, Vaddie Todd is 106 years old and lives in McGregor’s Independent Living community. Before moving in, Vaddie had a friend who lived at McGregor. She enjoyed visiting the community so much that when she retired, Vaddie decided to volunteer at McGregor as a receptionist. When she could no longer live on her own, the choice to move to McGregor was simple.

“It was very nice when I moved in here. The employees were very nice, and I loved the activities,” Vaddie said. Several of her favorite activities over the years have included art classes, movie nights, shopping, and computer classes. “Even so, my favorite part of living here at McGregor is the fact that I have my privacy and that I can go or not go to anything I wish. No matter how old I get, McGregor does everything they can to help me remain independent.”

Vaddie’s interview concluded with one last bit of wisdom. When asked about the secret to her longevity, Vaddie was not timid with her answer: “It is no secret what God can do. After many younger friends and relatives have passed on, I consider myself to be one of His miracles. I am only here because He has a reason for me to be here so long, and I thank Him for that.”

If you’re interested in hearing more about Vaddie Todd’s incredible journey, please read her autobiography, Looking Up, Moving Forward: An Autobiography of My Life.”









We wrote this story to celebrate Vaddie and all centenarians.

Celebrate the amazing accomplishments of those living to be 100 years old and older on National Centenarian’s Day, September 22! This day was created to honor and recognize the unique accomplishments and achievements of centenarians who have lived a long life full of experiences. It’s also an opportunity for people to acknowledge the contributions centenarians have made to society during their lifetimes. They are truly an inspiration and a reminder that age is just a number.

So let’s take this day to celebrate them and all they have done!