Centenarian’s birthday deemed best party of her lifetime

Maxine Kroll at her 100th birthday party
Maxine Kroll at her 100th birthday party

Riverside resident Maxine Meritt Kroll is always on the go. For a woman who recently celebrated her centennial birthday, she can leave others much younger in her dust.

“If you want to get on her dance card you need to try two or three weeks in advance,” said Bill Schmidt, a longtime friend who, with his wife, Mary Dudley Schmidt, threw the Nov. 21 birthday party for Kroll at his Ortega home.

“Extraordinary! So much fun! The best party of my lifetime,” said Kroll, who was feted by more than 200 friends. 

A computer-savvy, iPad-using, text-messaging social butterfly, Kroll makes sure she is impeccably dressed and coiffed when she’s out and about with friends of all ages. She attends fundraisers and Riverside Presbyterian Church, frequents the Sun-Ray Cinema and enjoys dining out.  

Formerly a volunteer at both St. Luke’s and St. Vincent’s hospitals, Kroll has also volunteered for the Symphony Guild, the Cummer Museum, Friends of the Jacksonville Library, and was a runway model in fashion show fundraisers for Jacksonville University Library. “I’ll do anything for fundraising!” said Kroll, who established the Peter and Maxine Kroll Endowed Chair for Wellness Education at the St. Vincent’s Foundation.

Maxine Kroll at her easel
Maxine Kroll at her easel

When not dining out, Kroll can be found in her kitchen, but in front of her easel, not the oven. Her impressionistic-style street scenes painted from memory tell the stories of places she has traveled. Studying with well-known local artists, such as Christine Schmidt, Gail Strickley and Alice Ulmer, Kroll spoke of the trip to France with Schmidt and Ulmer. They rented a villa to paint for a month and none spoke a word of French.

Kroll’s youth was one of white gloves at the Majestic Theatre with bellhops, and maids in the dressing room. “I love music and dancing – swing dance. I’d love to walk into the ballroom at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas once again and swing dance,” she said, joking that she was the “wild card” of the four girls in the family.

She contributed to the war effort as one of 30 Hunter College girls who ran payroll for the military during 1941 and 1942 in McAllister, Okla., operating a Victor Comptometer, a type of key-driven calculator. 

Kroll moved about with her husband, Dr. Peter Kroll, a cardiovascular surgeon and Flight Surgeon for the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. They met when Maxine was living with her sister and brother-in-law in Santa Barbara, Calif., during World War II. 

“Peter [who passed away in 1983] was a Gemini so there was never a dull moment! His family was European, so his background was one where everybody was highly educated. One time he asked me about my college experience. ‘What did you learn in Texas?’ I answered, ‘To be a cheerleader!’” she said. 

Kroll considers herself a “modern woman,” although she said she disapproved of Gloria Steinem and the ‘60s bra-burning era. Reflecting on beginning her 101st year, Kroll said the answer to everything is to “Let go and let God. It works every time.”

A Paris street scene painted by Maxine Kroll
A Paris street scene painted by Maxine Kroll

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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