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La Jollan celebrates 104th birthday

Stephanie McGraw turned 104 years old on Saturday, Jan. 24. But, boy, were looks deceiving. Stevie, as her friends call her, was reading her birthday cards without eyeglasses. She constantly beamed an energetic smile. She wore red lipstick, and her white hair was fashionably spiked. She even said she had styled it herself.

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“It’s easy. You just need a sharp pair of scissors,” she said.

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But it was true. Stephanie McGraw was born Stephanie Stephens in Missouri in 1905. She moved around a lot as a kid, finally making it to California in 1939 where she became a hair stylist for Howard Hughes’s Hollywood studios. She was also actress Jane Russell’s contract stylist for a number of years.

Following a star

“I went everywhere Jane needed me,” Stephanie said. “If she was doing a picture and needed her hair done then I went with her.” Jane Russell and Stephanie McGraw remain friends to this day. But to say Stephanie was a hair stylist to Hollywood stars is to tell only a fraction of her story. (She has lived for over a century, remember.)

Stephanie has also been a photographer for the FBI, a portrait painter, a restorer of carousel horses. And the list goes on.

Most recently, Stephanie has run a kumquat orchard. She bought the property in Hidden Meadows with her husband Deloss McGraw, who passed away in 1996.

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Making due

At her birthday though, the only indication that Stephanie McGraw might be more than 100 years old was that she was seated in a wheelchair, and the party was being held at the La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

But then it was learned that six weeks prior Stephanie was walking across a street in the rain near her apartment in Casa de Manana when she fell and broke her hip. “This is her first time in a wheelchair,” said Geri Ann Warnke, a physical therapist and Stevie’s friend for more than 30 years.

Warnke also said that Stephanie had already recovered better than most 80-year-olds would in two to three months, and she would be ambulatory once again. When asked if she minded being in a wheelchair, Stephanie said, “Oh no. It’s only temporary.”

That’s Stevie, said Warnke. “She just refuses to let negativity surround her.”

Good thing she will be up and walking again soon. Though she took a wonderful trip to Spain when she was 102, Stephanie has still never been to Dubai. “I’d love to see Dubai,” she said.