Santa Monica is a city rife with big names and impressive resumes but not even the most gilded of residents have hit the milestone a longtime resident recently has.
Anna Hafeli turned 100 (!) Monday, April 1. Her special day was rung in with family, friends and neighbors in their apartment complex off 3rd and California this past weekend. About 60 people attended the celebration, which included refreshments and music.
“I felt 20 years younger,” Hafeli said with a laugh. “It was such a surprise. “I didn’t expect so many people. All my friends are gone, so this, a good dinner, everyone congratulating me, it was nice.”
Tom Chambers, Hafeli’s neighbor for 30 years, helped organize the sorta-surprise party for the birthday girl.
“The party was amazing, it turned out so well,” Tom Chambers said. “She knew [a birthday party] was happening because we were setting up right outside her door but she didn’t know who it was for ‘til we set up. She didn’t know how many people would be there for her on her night. She was the star.”
Chambers became friends with Hafeli after being in the same complex for so long. While Hafeli never married and never had kids, that didn’t stop her from being social. Chambers says just about every day he’d see Hafeli playing with dogs, talking with neighbor’s kids and going out on long walks. Despite being a century old now, Hafeli relishes these interactions and staying active.
“She grabs her walker and takes off,” Chambers said. “Walks to Vons, walks to Wilshire, to church, and she’s fast. I have to tell her, ‘Those speed bumps in the street are for you!’ It’s amazing how positive and energetic and swift she is. Always on the go.”
Hafeli’s life has been on the go since birth.
Hafeli was born in Klingnau, Switzerland in 1919. She weathered the Great Depression there and eventually moved to Geneva and onwards Holland, where she waited tables through World War II.
Ever the traveler, Hafeli traveled to Canada on a whim (within four weeks after a friend told her to check it out) to experience the world as she worked as a waitress (“Canadians aren’t good tippers,” she said). She moved to Florida before traveling to Los Angeles to be closer to her brother. She moved to Santa Monica where she worked at Bellevue (now Boa Steakhouse) and eventually settled here.
“I like the places I can walk,” she said about her love of Santa Monica. “There are so many beautiful places here… North of Wilshire is pretty, there’re beautiful trees and a lot of shade, too.”
While living in a beach city certainly can extend someone’s joy of life, Hafeli says she’s not exactly certain what to say when it comes to the secret of her longevity.
“I haven’t found a recipe or reason for it,” she said. “I lived a good life, I worked very hard, I got along with everyone.”
After some ruminating, the unmarried-for-life Hafeli crafted an answer.
“No men,” she said with a laugh.