Longtime Northridge resident Marian Hakanson had celebrated her milestone 100th birthday on April 12. So she wasn’t thinking about that as her son, Mark, was taking her to the Dignity Health – Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where she had worked as a volunteer for 25 years.

Hakanson was just happy to be able to go back and visit the facility where she had worked in the hospital gift shop, and more recently, in the escort office where she helped get answers to  questions from families on the exit locations where patients would be discharged. Monday, April 26, was her first chance to visit since the COVID-19 outbreak began last March.

If Hakanson was expecting a quiet return, a chance to say ‘hi’ to the friends and co-workers she had been unable to see daily for a year, she got more than she expected.

An estimated 25-30 co-workers, hospital administrators and media representatives were there to wish her a happy belated birthday with a cake, balloons, and flowers.

“She knew something, but she didn’t know about the cake and flowers, or that everybody would be gathering for her,” an event spokesperson said. “[Hakanson] said she was so flattered and so honored.”

As she blew out the candles on the cake, Hakanson said her birthday wishes were simple ones.

“I wish for peace and calmer waters since so many of us have gone through so much,” the centenarian said. “My wish is for everyone to behave well, get along better, and help others.

“Service has always been in my life’s journey and I pray we do better in serving each other more. Also, be kind to one another, service and kindness and staying active with others has been my secret to a well loved and long life.”

Helping others is something Hakanson has taken great pride in doing. Besides her time at Dignity Health – Northridge Hospital, she worked 25 years as a volunteer at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.

“She’s pretty dedicated. It’s remarkable,” the spokesperson said.  

Hakanson has had other interests as well.

Her late husband, Herbert Glenn Hakanson, was an Air Force pilot during WWII, and Hakanson said his military service sparked a desire in her to want to learn how to fly planes and contribute to the war effort. 

But by the time Hakanson got her pilot’s license and was qualified to fly the Piper Cubs light aircraft, the war had ended. It didn’t dim her passion; she continued to enjoy flying the aircraft for another 10 years.

Hakanson will have to wait a bit longer to return and work as a volunteer. She had hip surgery last year, and still requires the aid of a walker and hospital rules won’t allow for that.

But when she can get around again without help, she expects to resume being able to help others.

Just like she’s alway’s done.