Family and friends celebrate Marian Manor resident’s 100th birthday


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Tuesday afternoon, Helen Meima turned 100 years old.

Meima’s friends and family came out to Marian Manor in Virginia Beach for a celebration for her special day. Staff also joined in the fun.

Meima was happy that everyone came, and said the Lord is the reason she’s still alive. There was a Frank Sinatra impersonator who sang to Meima’s delight, and when the song “New York, New York” played, she sang all the words with enthusiasm.

“I don’t even feel like a 100,” chuckled Meima.

Helen Downey was born on Oct. 19, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 17, she started her first job at Stouffer’s Restaurant in Manhattan, New York. She married twice. She married her first husband James O’Reilly, a U.S. Marine who served in World War II, in 1942, and when he returned, they had three sons a few years later.

During the early 1940s, she worked at AT&T at 195 Broadway in Manhattan, New York. She was an employee there for over 35 years.

Her middle child, Bob O’Reilly, was born in 1947. On Tuesday, he said he is very thankful his mother made it to 100.

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“For her to reach 100 years of age, it’s fantastic, it’s unbelievable,” said Bob O’Reilly.

James, her first husband, died in a car crash in November 1949. Losing her first husband was tough for her, and she cherishes each day she gets to live on this earth.

“He’s been very good to me, the Lord, believe me,” Meima said.

In 1976, she moved from Manhattan to Bud Lake, New Jersey, because AT&T had relocated. Ten years later she retired. Next, she moved to Bonita Springs, Florida, where she met Elmer Meima. They married in 1987. Seven years later, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

“I didn’t even have my two husbands. I never had to ask anybody for anything, the Lord sees it, I get it. I’ll never be able to thank him enough ever,” she said.

Meima moved to Virginia Beach in 2008, and in the fall of 2019, she moved to Marian Manor. Meima is family-oriented and has two daughters-in-law, five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. The retirement home employees and her fellow elders say she’s a kind person and is always a joy to be around.

“I would like to thank Marian Manor for all they do for my mother and all the other residents here,” said O’Reilly.

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