Turning 106 years old was already a huge deal for Muriel McGowan and her family and friends but adding to the occasion was that the self-proclaimed No. 1 Jaguars fan received a surprise visit from her beloved team.
After 106 years there is probably not a lot that McGowan has not seen in her lifetime, but she was caught by full surprise when she first saw Jaguars mascot Jaxson de Ville and a pair of ROAR cheerleaders had showed up to her birthday party at Vicar’s Landing.
“She just seems to be loving it,” McGowan’s daughter, Barbara said. “This is a wonderful day for her, especially with the Jaguars here.”
Jaxson de Ville first presented McGowan with a tub of strawberry ice cream, her favorite daily snack and then a gift box stuffed with a variety of Jaguars merchandise, from a t-shirt and hat to a mini helmet signed by wide receiver Marvin Jones.
A football was also passed around and signed by all those in attendance.
McGowan was born on July 30, 1916 and graduated high school during the Great Depression. Later in life she moved with her family from New Jersey to north Florida around 1995, which is also the same time the Jaguars became a franchise in the National Football League.
“It’s always great to have a reason to celebrate a birthday, but especially when it’s your grandmother and she’s turning 106,” said Chris Martin, McGowan’s grandson. “I’ve said many times, that I just hope to have even a small fraction of the genes that she has, and I’d be happy with that.”
Vicar’s Landing executive director Kendall Bryan has known McGowan for about a decade since he began working as the facility’s health center administrator.
“We can only hope that we age that way,” Bryan said. “We’ve got so many amazing people that live here, but to have someone like her that is always so joyful, makes it even better. I would make it a point to come to her building just hoping that I get to see her, because if you’re having a bad day, all you need to do is see Ms. McGowan and she lights you right up. She has a gift and is just a remarkable person.”
He was not the only one in attendance to mention McGowan’s vibrant nature and attitude toward life that has never wavered during her 106 years.
“She laughs every day, and her friends always say that she never has a down moment,” said Rosa Martin, McGowan’s granddaughter-in-law
Over the years Bryan has developed a unique relationship with McGowan, and one that he cherishes.
“We’ve had a running joke, because I do not watch football, which she just does not understand,” Bryan said. “Ever since she found that out, every time I come over, she calls me a sissy, even though I’m 6-(foot)-4 (inches) and 220 pounds. Someone who doesn’t watch football just doesn’t make sense to her, because she just loves the Jaguars.”
Barbara remarked to the crowd about her mom’s moto for life being to “never give up,” no matter the situation life may present.
“She never complains about anything, because her dad was from Belgium, and she believes that people from Belgium have a very strong fortitude,” Barbara said.
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