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Hazel Homer, pacemaker recipient at 99, dies at 105

Hazel Homer, who at age 99 became one

Hazel Homer, who at age 99 became one of the oldest patients ever to receive a pacemaker and defibrillator, died March 22, 2010, a little more than a month before her 106th birthday. Newsday's obituary for Hazel Homer
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Hazel Homer was very protective of her age. Each time someone asked how old she was, she'd give a lower answer.

"She'd say that she was Hazel Homer and she was 100," said Jane Sturm, her daughter. "And I'd say, 'Absolutely not. Mom, you know you're 105.' "

Homer died Monday, a little more than a month before her 106th birthday. At age 99, she became one of the oldest patients ever to receive a pacemaker and defibrillator. Until just a few weeks ago, Homer lived in the same stucco house in East Rockaway since the 1920s.

"Her spirit was remarkable," said Sturm, 83, of Rockville Centre. "She was always in command, always directing."

Born in April 1904, Homer graduated from high school at 16 and attended business school before her marriage in 1925. She raised Sturm, her only child, on her own because the Great Depression forced her husband, Harold, to travel throughout the country for work.

"She was a disciplinarian," Sturm said, laughing. Some of the house rules: Hold books and utensils correctly, use good penmanship, and "sit at the table as you would the table of a king." Long hair and boys were not tolerated.

Sturm says she was softer on her own four children - but they still got their share of discipline on weekend visits to their grandmother.

"She'd cut our bangs really, really high," said one granddaughter, Janet Sturm, 55, of Setauket. "Then she'd take her spit and make our hair curl to the sides of our cheeks."

Homer retired from her job as an executive secretary in 1961. She was an avid gardener and fan of antique shops, Jane Sturm said. Even as the years added up, she showed few signs of aging, Sturm said. "There was nothing outstanding about each birthday because she was the same mentally," she said.

It wasn't until her 90s that heart congestion started to form, Sturm said. At age 99, it was determined the only thing that could prolong her heart's life was a pacemaker. The first surgeon refused to perform the procedure because of her age. But a team of cardiologists at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn decided to do it.

The defibrillator worked. And last summer, Jane Sturm was invited to a televised health care forum at the White House, where she explained her mother's situation to President Barack Obama.

Homer, whose husband died in 1949, is survived by two other grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Services have been held. Donations can be sent to Cornerstone Christian Church, 250 Old Country Rd. in Hicksville.

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