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Newhall — At a time when most people her age are slowing down, Melba Fisher is getting her second wind.
On Saturday, the Newhall woman planned to celebrate her 80th birthday with friends and family, including her four children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Fisher, who enjoys gardening, trout fishing, baking and playing tambourine for a local band, doesn't plan to slow down. She's already been around the world and visited Egypt — twice.
Her secret for longevity? A positive attitude.
"I love being with my family, and I love to make sad people happy," she said.
And she does that on a regular basis as a member of the Cool Cats, a band of performers ranging in age from 60 to 85. The group visits local convalescent homes and plans an Independence Day concert at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.
"We perform wherever we're needed," Fisher said, noting that the band has attracted a following among the elderly and homebound.
"They get in their wheelchairs. They clap their hands and tap their feet and just go wild," she said of her audience.
Although old age hasn't caught up with her, her busy schedule has. Until two years ago, Fisher sold baked goods at the senior center, where people would line up to buy her peanut butter pies, apple cakes and carrot cakes.
"Everybody would die for her baked goods," said Judy Starbuck, one of Fisher's daughters-in-law. "She would bake for weeks. She has a huge freezer that was just stuffed with baked goods."
Now Fisher bakes only for her family. "I just had too many irons on the fire," she said.
For 24 years, she sold dried flower arrangements at the Saugus Swap Meet. She retired in 1989 to devote more time to her ailing husband but continued to indulge her green thumb.
"I love gardening," said Fisher, who grows roses, chrysanthemums and fuchsias, as well as tomatoes and bell peppers, in gardens around her house.
Cooking and growing vegetables always have been part of her life. As one of 12 children, Fisher learned how to cook at her mother's knee.
"I would stand on a box to reach everything," she recalled.
The octogenarian hails from the pioneering Walker family who helped settle the area around the turn of the century. The family's cabin is preserved at the Placerita Nature Center, and the Walker Ranch recreation area once belonged to her father, Frank Walker.
Fisher said she has seen dramatic changes take place in the Santa Clarita Valley.
"There's been drastic change," she said. "It used to take us all day in horse and buggy to get from Sand Canyon to Newhall. Soledad Canyon Road was a dirt road, and it was such a blessing when they paved it."
News story courtesy of Cynthia Neal-Harris.