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METHUEN — It was her 100th birthday party and she’s never looked better. Unfortunately, she was unable to enjoy any of the cake, unless of course someone dropped a piece on the floor.

More than 50 people gathered at Nevins Manor April 29 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nevins Family of Services.

Appropriately, the fete was thrown in the building that first opened its doors in 1906 as the Henry C. Nevins Home for the Aged and Incurable, courtesy of a $1 million gift in the will of Julie Nevins. It sat vacant for 14 years after the 1982 opening of the Nevins Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre, on the same 10-acre campus off Broadway, until it was granted a new life in 1996. A Housing and Urban Development grant provided the funding to restore and renovate the building to accommodate 44 affordable apartments for independent seniors.

The “Family” has grown to include two adult day-care centers and a transportation service.

“In 1906 tuberculosis was considered incurable and that was how this organization came about,” said Nevins CEO Felix Albano. “It has been 100 years, but we are doing things a hell of a lot differently than they did in 1906.”

He explained that today the focus is on keeping people healthy and in their homes for as long as possible. While the average age of a nursing home patient in 1970 was 72, today it is 90 years of age with a stay of 18 months, as opposed to seven years in the 1970s.

“That is what Nevins is all about,” Albano told the group of 60 revelers. “I am so proud.”

The Nevins kitchen staff, clad in crisp white chef jackets with black cuffs, buttons and collars, accessorized by tall white chef hats, treated party-goers to a decadent feast in an elegant room that by day serves as the dining room for the Manor’s residents.

“I feel like this is my daughter’s wedding,” quipped Director of Project Development Brenda Murphy, RN, as she buzzed about the room making sure everyone had eaten and was having a good time.

The Rev. John McLaughlin, a newcomer to Methuen having served as the priest at St. Monica’s for the past 10 months, was endlessly impressed by the Nevins story and the commitment of the city’s early families to leave a legacy.

“It is amazing what those three families, the Nevins, the Tenneys and the Searles, gave to this community,” he said, totally blown away to hear that Julie Nevins left $1 million in her will to establish the nursing home in honor of her husband. “I can’t believe she left $1 million in 1906. That was a lot of money back then, and she wasn’t even from Methuen.”

Dr. Lawrence Kidd is not new to Methuen, having served the last 25 years as the medical director for Nevins. He credits the facility’s longevity to a strong history of community support and a dedicated staff.

“One hundred years is a reflection of its management and its community connection,” he said. “But, it is the nurses that really make the place.”

Mayor Bill Manzi, state Rep. Arthur Broadhurst and June Black from U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan’s office all presented proclamations in honor of the event.

“This building actually triggered the formation of the Methuen Historic District Commission, which is so important to our city,” Manzi said.

He added that his own grandmother is a resident at the nursing centre, giving him a true understanding of the facility and the professionalism with which it treats its guests.

“Nevins is committed not only to their residents, but also to their staff and their development,” he said. “It is truly an ingrained part of our community.”

Black also has intimate knowledge of the nursing centrer, because her 94-year-old father has been a resident for the past year.

“It was a godsend to us and to him that we have Nevins in our community and can be assured that he is being taken care of,” she said.

John Weir, a member of the Nevins board of directors for two decades, “hung in there” through the frustrating years when the original building stood empty, years of frustration that he said paid off when Nevins Manor opened its doors.

“One lady said about she moving in, ‘I thought I was moving into a castle,’” he smiled. “It is such a pleasure to be able to let elderly people with little money live in a place as grand as this.”