Sanibel celebrates 100-year-old woman who helped shape community

Published: May 19, 2020 7:34 PM EDT
Updated: May 20, 2020 12:22 PM EDT

“They called me the ‘hot dog lady'” said Doris Southerton. Tuesday, she celebrated 100 years of life.

“Oh, I have a lot of friends,” she said. “I met so many people.”

Doris Southerton and her late husband, Chic, at the beach in 1941. (Provided to WINK News)

One hundred years of friends and the family she grew with her great love, Chic.

“He was my boyfriend and then we eventually got married,” Southerton said. “We spent lots of time on the beach…We had our own boat and we used to go out almost every day and we found this island and I called it, ‘This is Doris’ island’ and it was out of Captiva.”

She said the two celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and then he died shortly after.

One hundred years of memories made living in Europe and right here in Southwest Florida where she started the Sanibel Senior Center.

“I was picked to go before the board and ask, tell them that we would like to have a senior center and they said, ‘Well, what do you want a senior center for?’ I said, ‘Well, we want a place of our own where we can hold special events,’ and they finally agreed to let us have a senior center so we have a senior center and it’s doing very well,” she said.

Doris Southerton (Provided to WINK News)

Her 100th birthday wish is to stay on Sanibel.

“I’m lucky enough to be Doris’ best friend on the island and I have learned more about Sanibel since I have known Doris than I could ever learn in a million years,” said Melanie Cook.

Here’s how her community came together to say “Happy Birthday” to her amidst the COVID-19 pandemic — parading past Southerton’s home, honking and celebrating Sanibel’s centennial.

“Everyone wanted to get involved and it’s just unbelievable how they all came together for this…they love her,” Cook said.

Her gift to us is this life advice: “Just be yourself and enjoy the place where you live.”

A place full of people thankful for every year she put into it.