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Mazie Ford, Florida's Oldest Volunteer, Dies At 112-Years-Old

Johann Levinson (left), helps her mom, Mazie (right), put on her signature pink lipstick in 2017.
Caitie Switalski
Johann Levinson (left), helps her mom, Mazie (right), put on her signature pink lipstick in 2017.

Mazie Ford was the only verified super-centenarian in Florida. That’s someone who’s over 110 years old. 

Ford died earlier this week. Her family said she died peacefully at her condo in Hallandale Beach. She was just seven weeks shy of her 113th birthday in June.

Ford spent the last years of her life knitting baby hats for families at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. Her family estimates she knitted close to 5,000 hats since she started 10 years ago.

Mazie Ford, Florida's Oldest Volunteer, Dies At 112-Years-Old

WLRN first told Ford’s story in December 2017:When I first met Mazie Ford in her Hallandale beach condo, she was wearing a blonde wig, some blue eyeshadow, and a pink blouse with a butterfly broach. She told me I would never catch her without her pink lipstick on. Amazingly, she had the energy to sit and talk with me for nearly three hours straight. 

“Do you watch Dancing with the Stars?” Ford asked. “Does he look familiar? Here he is!” 

She jumped up, grabbed her walker and moved quickly across her condo to show me a picture of professional dancer Derek Hough with his arm around her on her 109th birthday. 

She never spent a lot of time focusing on the past. 

Read More: Broward's Oldest Resident Donates Her Time To The County's Newest

Like many South Floridians, Ford started coming to Hallandale as a snowbird. She and her first husband, Harry, used to spend winters at the beach. 

It was her daughter, Johann Levinson, who called her mother in Philly one day in 1967. She asked her mom to spend the winter at a new development called The Hemispheres. Johann remembers Ford passing the phone to her dad. 

“She said he wouldn’t say no to me and that’s how they got their first apartment in this building,” Levinson said. 

Ford lived in that same condo until she died early Monday morning.

She always valued her independence. Ford got married in the early 1920s - shortly after women got the right to vote. She was 16.

“Oh when my husband asked me to marry him, I said, ‘only if you buy me a car,’” she told me. 

By the time Ford moved to Hallandale permanently, she was a widow, who had just remarried. 

“I played a lot of golf, I played a lot of bridge, and I had my own car,” she remembered fondly.

Though she had eventually stopped playing golf, she loved her bridge and mahjong until the end of her life. And her daughter Johann, now 91, would come to visit almost everyday. 

“She was always a sharp lady, an excellent bridge player, a terrific mahjong player,” she said of her mother.  

Ford’s best friend in her later years of life was Marla Oxenhandler. She would often come to visit, and they spoke for the last time on the day before Ford died. There were 51 years between Mazie and Marla but according to the latter, talking to her friend was "just like talking to someone my own age.”  

Oxenhandler’s grown kids live in Philadelphia, and Ford loved to hear stories about the place she grew up. 

Mazie was also really artistic. And she kept that up well into her 100s. For her 100th birthday, as a party favor for her guests - she made small wire butterflies with hundreds of tiny pink beads. By hand. 

When she got bored with beading, she moved on to knitting.  She started with blanket squares for the non-profit  Warm Up America.

She started knitting and delivering hats for newborn babies at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, every month in 2009. It’s the only time she would leave her condo. The hats are how she and Oxenhandler met. 

“She used to just bring them and drop them off at security and it didn’t make her feel that good because she didn’t see where they were going,” Oxenhandler said.

Oxenhandler, who used to work for the hospital, decided to take Ford to visit the families who received her hats, and the two began their friendship. 

Johann Levinson told WLRN she was at her mother's side when she died in her sleep this week. Mazie Ford is survived by one of her two children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and six great-great grandchildren.

You can hear the original version of this story that aired on WLRN on Dec. 1, 2017, below: Click the triangle to listen to the original airing of this story.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.
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