BALTIMORE — The world has come a long way since Flander Dunham was born 100 years ago on July 4, 1913.
Dunham celebrated his centennial birthday Thursday, July 4, with a party at DiamondZ Events Center in Randallstown.
“There isn’t much I haven’t done and enjoyed during my life,” Dunham said. When asked for words of wisdom, Dunham said, “Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Go to school.”
Dunham, himself, gave up smoking in 1963 when the first health warnings from the surgeon general were imprinted on cigarette packages.
“He quit cold turkey,” said Elaine Toppin, Dunham’s daughter and one of his six children. “He’s in really good health. His doctor told my father that he wished he had my father’s heart, it’s in such great shape,” Toppin, 60, said.
Dunham was born in South Carolina and married his sweetheart, Ellen who died two years ago at 90. “They were married for 70 years,” Toppin said. “There are so many stories about my dad, I could talk about him for 100 years.”
One of the things that Toppin speaks fervently about is her father’s work ethic. She says that her father taught by example the benefit of hard work. “I remember he’d give out chores and we had to do them,” she said. “My brothers had to cut and care for the lawn and I recall one night my dad got home at about 2 a.m. and the lawn wasn’t done. Now, he worked two and three jobs, so my brothers should have known that dad was serious. He woke them up at 2 a.m., put some bright lights outside and made them clean up the yard.”
Dunham still takes cares of the Baltimore home he purchased with his late wife in 1957.
“He doesn’t understand not working, not doing things and he doesn’t understand waiting,” Toppin said. “I come over to help him out, but sometimes whatever it is that he needed to be done, he already had done so.”
According to Toppin, her father’s arrival in Charm City itself proved an interesting story. “He worked for 35 years as a mechanic for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company before finally retiring,” Toppin said. “Coca-Cola used to ship bottle caps from South Carolina. Well, dad wanted to know where those caps were going and he said he wanted to work for that company. It turns out, it was in Baltimore.”
Dunham, who has served for 60 years as a deacon in the First Christian Community Baptist Church in Baltimore said that he enjoyed working for the bottling company.
Dunham has also been active at the Pikesville Senior Center and he has participated in the famous Million Man March and other notable activities.
The fun-loving centenarian also had a streak of attending presidential inaugurations in Washington, D.C. starting in 1962. “John F. Kennedy was the first president I went to see with a friend of mine from church,” Dunham said, noting that he did miss Barack Obama’s two historic inaugurations. “I just enjoy the inaugurations,” he said.
Toppin said she is certain Dunham will enjoy his 100th birthday celebration. She said her father will likely be surprised when he sees one guest that he’s not expecting.
“His sister, Dorothy Phillips, is coming in from Georgia and they are so close,” Toppin said. “I better have a nurse there because he’s going to be overwhelmed.” Phillips, 96, is in just as good health as Dunham. “They are about clean living,” Toppin pointed out. “They have always been that way and we are looking forward to everyone celebrating and laughing with my dad.”