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Editor’s note: The Beacon has received several emails recently about individuals turning 100 years old or older. To shine a spotlight on our community’s valuable centenarians, we put together these mini-profiles.

Some of your neighbors are celebrating becoming centenarians this year. And, for Stanley Sarnowski of Lake Helen and Milton Sowards of Orange City, that’s old hat. They just turned 101.

Based on 2019 population numbers for Volusia County, there should be approximately 150 centenarians living in the county. While we don’t know them all, we’re happy to introduce these few.

Ruth Clarke Collins Powell, Orange City

WELL-RESPECTED — To students at Orange City Elementary School in the mid-20th century, Ruth Clarke Collins Powell was a familiar face. Every morning, she shepherded students across U.S. Highway 17-92, ensuring they got to school safely. Former Orange City resident Cleve Booker remembered her dedication to the children fondly. “If you come barreling down the road,” he said, “she would be in the middle, ready to be run over.”

Ruth Clarke Collins Powell of Orange City was born on March 21, 1921.

For more than 20 years, children crossing busy U.S. Highway 17-92 on their way to Orange City Elementary School were guided by Powell, the city’s very first hired crossing guard.

“She started on the highway when it was two lanes, not four,” her daughter Jean Tanous told The Beacon.

Powell had moved to Orange City with her mother in 1925, when she was just 4 years old. After marrying, she left West Volusia for a time, but returned in the 1950s. Ever since, Powell has lived in Orange City.

Over the century, she has seen much change, not just in the West Volusia area, but all over. When asked about it, Powell replied, “That’s progress!”

Stanley Sarnowski, Lake Helen

Lake Helen resident Stanley Sarnowski celebrated his 101st birthday March 16. To commemorate the occasion, Lake Helen went all out — organizing a parade past Sarnowski’s home that was attended by city officials and plenty of other well-wishers.

LAKE HELEN CENTENARIAN — Lake Helen’s Stanley Sarnowski celebrates his 101st birthday by watching a parade the city staged in his honor. Sarnowski’s daughter Carol Austin said her dad got “quite a kick” out of the city throwing a party for him.

Sarnowski was born in 1920 in Connecticut, where he lived most of his life. He served in World War II in Italy, and earned the Bronze Star.

Sarnowski has four children — Lee Sarnowski, Allen Sarnowski, Richard Sarnowski and Carol Austin.

Austin told The Beacon her dad has lived a great life. She said he got a kick out of the parade for his birthday.

“He’s seen so much during his lifetime, all the progress,” she said. “He’s so lucky to have had such a good life.”

In addition to his children, Sarnowski has 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Austin said the secret to her dad’s health and happiness is his daily routines.

“That’s what keeps him going — his routine. Even when he eats, he has the same thing for breakfast. He has a glass of red wine every night, and he says that’s what helps him, too,” she said. “He likes things to go even; he doesn’t like change.”

Having lived to 101, we say he’s earned it.

Louise Huffman, DeLand

FAMILY REUNION — To celebrate Louise Huffman’s 100th birthday, her family got together to enjoy some quality time. Huffman spent most of her life in Pennsylvania, where she worked as a bank teller and played the bass fiddle in the Know Glass Swing Band. Nowadays, Huffman lives in DeLand, where she has been since 2004. She enjoys playing dominoes and spending time with her children, several of whom live nearby.

DeLandite by way of Pennsylvania Louse Huffman celebrated her 100th birthday March 30. Born in 1921, Huffman laughed when she told The Beacon she is older than in-home electricity.

Huffman worked as a bank teller for 30 years. While her career stayed in the same building, she said, ownership of the bank changed five times during her tenure there.

“I started out in the Gold Standard National Bank and I retired from PNC Bank,” she said.

Huffman moved to DeLand in 2004 to be closer to her children and has lived here ever since. Now, Huffman lives with her cat, Katy, and enjoys being close to her family members in Florida.

She also has nine grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Her daughter Cara Elder, who lives in DeLand, plays dominoes with her mom every Sunday night.

To celebrate her 100th birthday, her children, Elder, Cat Zawacki and Chuck Huffman organized a Zoom family reunion that included relatives from all over Florida and the U.S. Elder, Zawacki and Huffman all live close to their mom; Huffman is just around the corner.

The Oaks neighborhood, where Louise Huffman lives, also celebrated her birthday with a drive-by party. In addition to her party, she received some 135 birthday cards.

We asked Louise Huffman her secret to a long, healthy life, and she shared one possible tip.

“They laugh at me,” she said, “But I use butter like it was going out of style.”

Louise Huffman said she has buttermilk everyday, and quit smoking at age 75.

Milton Sowards, Orange City

Milton Sowards was born March 25, 1920, in Interlaken, New York.

He served in the military during World War II as a submarine spotter in Newfoundland.

After the war, he came back to New York, where he met his soon-to-be-wife, Juanita Dew.

“I think my mom was supposed to be on a date with somebody who borrowed my dad’s car,” said Brenda Ciccarello, Sowards’ youngest daughter. “Then my dad walks into the place and says, ‘Where the hell’s my car?’ They were together ever since.”

Juanita Sowards died two years ago, and Milton Sowards is now the last of his siblings living. But at 101, he is happy and healthy.

“He’s a total freak of nature,” Ciccarello joked. “The only pills he takes are Aleve and aspirin.”

Ciccarello and her dad live together, and she said the arrangement is a lot of fun.

“It’s pretty awesome, actually. He buys me stuff, and I don’t have to do anything for it,” she said with a laugh. “He’s pretty cool. He gets around; he does everything.”

To celebrate his birthday, the family held a birthday party that included a few of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The turnout was great for Florida, Ciccarello said, but if the party had been in New York, there would have been 100 additional guests.

“My family loves a party,” she said.


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