ARTHURDALE, W.Va. -- Dozens streamed in and out of the Arthurdale Heritage Center on Saturday to honor the community's oldest resident and the only living original homesteader left there.
Hazel Bonnette turned 100 on Jan. 11, and her family held an open house for the centenarian on Saturday.
She was seated in the front of the room at her own table, dressed in a dark purple outfit, complete with a matching corsage. Her table was never empty, as friends and relatives sat to eat with her and talk. Her mind is sharp, and she seemed to enjoy her party - even drinking a glass of wine near the end of the afternoon.
Bonnette certainly is the quintessence of living history, carrying with her memories of 77 years of life in Arthurdale. The community was established 80 years ago as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal legislation.
She was born in Morgantown on Jan. 11, 1913, the oldest of seven children of Howard and Golda Jenkins. Until she was 8 years old, she lived with her family in a boarding house in Sabraton owned by her grandparents.
Then her parents purchased a dairy farm on Greenbag Road just south of Morgantown, where she lived until she married Claude Bonnette in 1933. Her first daughter, Jean, was born that same year.
In 1936, the family was accepted to live in Arthurdale. Their first home was a smaller building on B Road. Bonnette didn't care for that house, said her daughter, Jean McLaughlin.
But Bonnette did like the larger stone houses. When one opened up on M Road in 1942, she asked the community's administration to move, and she has lived in that house ever since.
"I liked our house where we lived," Bonnette said.
In all, Bonnette had four children: Jean, Claudette, Tom and Suzie.