Florence Sund turned 100 on May 14, and age hasn't stopped her from getting all she can out of life. One of her fondest memories is of riding her Arabian horse across the hills and meadows above Palo Alto and in her native Illinois countryside. When the wind was against her face, she felt free, she tells visitors.
Sund celebrated her birthday with a gathering of family and friends at Lytton Gardens, her residence for the last five years. Her birthday wishes included a visit from a therapy dog, handing out chocolate kisses to her caregivers and staff and feeling the air outside — something she hasn't been able to do for 10 years.
Sund got her wishes, plus one she wasn't anticipating: A horse was brought in from Webb Ranch to visit and Sund was adorned with a red riding jacket. Girl Scout Troop 33098 serenaded Sund, who is a former Girl Scout leader.
Sund was raised on an Illinois farm and attended Rockton College. She graduated the second highest in her class in 1931 and became a teacher. She and late husband Dick raised three children, Sylvia, David and Alan.
When she moved to Palo Alto in the 1950s with Dick, a Stanford Linear Accelerator employee, her Arabian horse came with the family.
In Palo Alto, she worked in education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, where she created the curriculum, according to her friend Rose Dana. She met Sund some years ago while volunteering at the former Stanford Rehabilitation Nursing Home.
"She's like my mother and my children's grandmother," said Dana, who moved to the Bay Area and had no family nearby. Sund suggested she could become the children's "California grandmother," Dana said.
Sund's greatest imparted wisdom is gratefulness and she always thinks about the other person. In all of her conversations Sund always talks about service to other people, Dana said.
"She always says the secret to her long life is that she's always finding positive energy and thoughts," Dana said. "We can't always change things but we can choose to be positive. And really look at nature — even the weeds coming up through the crack in the sidewalk — and appreciate all of that. It's all life," she said.