Margaret Hatcher celebrated her 104th birthday Feb. 2 with friends at a festive party featuring live music, cake and a special appearance by local firemen, with whom she enjoyed dancing. Canterfield of Kennesaw, where Margaret lives, received more than 100 birthday cards for her from across the United States.
Born in 1919, Margaret braved World War II in her 20s and remembers it clearly. She was working in a department store to pay the bills, but by 1945, everyone was joining the war effort, she said. She knew she wanted to do something else in life, so she decided to join the American Red Cross.
Margaret’s favorite memory from that time was saluting Gen. Douglas MacArthur outside the Dai-Ichi building in Tokyo. Her husband admired MacArthur tremendously, so she decided one day to walk to the building where he waited for his chauffeur. “He was the epitome of a good soldier, and I needed to see this man,” she said. “There are things to not admire him for, but we all have those.”
A not-so-pleasant memory from the war was when Margaret lived in Japan. She said she went out on the beach and saw a group of Japanese soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the Americans. The first prisoners she’d ever seen, she said their stare felt like a bullet going through her. “There was a group of maybe 25 men that looked at me with such hatred,” she said. “It was very difficult for me, and I will never forget it.”
Margaret believes the most important lesson in life is to be honest with yourself and others. “You would want people to be honest with you when you ask them a question,” she said. “Even if you have to belittle yourself sometimes, it does not matter. Still be honest always.”
Although each person’s story is different, everyone can agree that life comes with regrets. Margaret’s biggest regret was not going to college, but for people growing up in the 1930s and ’40s, that wasn’t always an option. She said she is not sure what she would have studied, but her young- adult years were not the life she wanted. “I was living by myself and made enough money to take care of myself, but I wish I had more education and a degree, where I could be more choosy with my work,” she said.
Despite her regret, Margaret enjoyed traveling the world with her husband. Her career allowed her to see many things that other people would never get to see, she said. The tulip fields in Holland were the most unforgettable place she ever visited.
Margaret’s best advice to young people is to be good, nice and helpful to everyone they meet. You never know what people are going through, so a simple act of kindness could change someone’s life, she said.