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Reflecting on a Century of Life

At 100 years young, these residents share their wisdom and memories.

Helen Fitzpatrick

Three Oaks Assisted Living & Memory Care

Cary, Illinois

Birthday: June 20, 1917

What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?

I believe that everyone deserves respect. No matter whom I meet, whether they are dressed in the most ragged clothes, I look on them as a human being and I feel warmly towards them. I look for the things that I have in common with every person that I meet. We are not to judge them. That is for God to do.

Some people say that they have had difficult or stressful experiences but they have learned important lessons from them. Is it true for you?

Yes, absolutely I had many difficult experiences in my life. One example is that due to my husband’s work we moved many times. Some people might find moving difficult or stressful but to me it was advantageous. I always gained from new experiences, always found things to be interested in. The first thing my children and I would do is search the neighborhood for a church, next we would look for the school, then we would find the library. I learned to take advantage of the moves instead of seeing them as a hardship.

What DO you know now about living a happy and successful life that you didn’t know when you were younger?

When I was younger I thought there were levels that were decided by how much education you had and what kind of job you had, etc. I thought that the best people were at the top. Now I know that some of the people who are the lowest are the best people and some of the people at the top, well…

What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?

Help people, love all kinds of people, be generous and caring to others and last but not least, have an appreciation for nature, trees, mountains, and oceans. What a beautiful world!

What’s the hardest thing about growing older? The best thing?

Not being able to hop in my car and go exploring is hard, but the best thing is that I am still here, making friends.


 

Bill Vorel

Cedar Lake Assisted Living & Memory Care

Lake Zurich, Illinois

Birthday: August 6, 1917

Were you born and raised in Illinois?

I was born in Chicago, the fourth of five children. My parents were immigrants, my father from Yugoslavia and my mother from Czechoslovakia. She never learned to speak English, but my sisters and brothers and I went to Bohemian school every Saturday to learn to speak Bohemian so we could talk with her.

 

When I started high school, we moved to New Buffalo, Michigan. My father always wanted a farm. We had cows, chickens, pigs and crops. Before school, I milked five cows and my brother milked the other five! In 1927 and ’28, the crops and farm flooded, and my father had no money to pay the taxes and lost the farm. We had to go on relief. I was still able to graduate high school. I didn’t go on to college, I got a job to help out, working at a bakery baking bread.

What big world event impressed you the most in your life?

The Second World War. I was drafted as an infantryman and my job was as combat engineer working on and repairing bridges and roads. I was stationed in North Africa and Algiers but I also traveled to Ireland and England. Even though I didn’t see combat, we were under the command and direction of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Our additional duties were watching his quarters. You had to get by me first to see the general!

Every month, we were issued a carton of cigarettes for ourselves. I didn’t smoke, so I sold my carton on the black market for $50, quite a sum in those days. I sent the money home to my savings and when I came home I had enough to buy a new 1941 Plymouth.

Was World War II a turning point in your life?

I would say so. I came back and met my wife, Marjorie. We married on April 30, 1946, and had a son, Terry. We moved to Bridgeman, Michigan, where I worked for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway for thirty years before retiring. My son met a girl from Illinois and they married and settled in Lake Zurich. When my wife passed away, my son moved me to Cedar Lake where I am now closer to him.

So what is your secret to such a long life?

I never smoked a day in my life! I don’t know much more than that. I like my newspaper every day. I don’t take any medication, I never wore glasses, I have a little trouble remembering but my friends here help me with that.

Very important to any Chicagoan … Cubs or Sox?

Neither, New York Yankees!


Evelyn Collier

Lakeview Senior Living

Lakewood, Colorado

Birthday: September 7, 1917

Evelyn Ione Lull Collier was born in Sundance, Wyoming, the oldest daughter in a family of five girls and five boys. She was married to Charles Collier, Jr. (Chuck) August 26, 1937, and had four children Charles III (Skip), Robert (Rob), Linda, and Barbara.

What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?

The most important lesson I learned early on was not to overspend. If you watch how you spend your money, you’ll have more for later. Also, I think it is so important to truly listen to what other people have to say. You don’t always agree, but that is okay. Listening to others helps expand your own knowledge.

Are there any “turning points” that changed your life or set you on a different track?

I wasn’t able to go to college right out of high school, as I married and had my first child when I was 20. So, once my husband and I had our final daughter in college, I decided to go to school myself — at 50 years of age. But I loved going to college and learning. It was a highlight of my life. It allowed me to acquire and complete a wonderful career with the federal government working in financing at the VA.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

My secret to a happy marriage was making my husband think that he was the boss. It was a different time then, but really, the two of us were a team, and we never forgot how important that was. When he needed a ‘boost’ I gave it to him, and when I needed a lift because something was hard, then he was there for me too.

Did you have any heroes or role models when you were a child?

In my younger years, after we had moved to Denver, my family was poor and so I was able to take part in a program called Big & Little Sisters. My “big sister” was Hilda Freeland, the sister-in-law of the Mayor of Denver. She instilled in me confidence. She said I was smart and pretty and could do anything I wanted. Her encouragement helped me become a strong woman.

The next role models I had were Dr. Frank Roberts and Mrs. Roberts. He was the vice chancellor at University of Denver, and I cleaned for them, but my most important job was reading to Dr. Roberts. He had had a stroke, and needed someone to read the newspaper to him each day. They both encouraged me to be an avid reader, which I still am today, and gave me courage to try new things. I am lucky enough to have some personal treasures from the Roberts that they gave to me when I married.

What’s different about growing up today from when you were growing up?

The biggest change is the importance of computers and technology on everyday life. I can remember getting my first computer and first cell phone when my husband and I were easily in our 70s. And the changes that have happened since then are huge. I love having an iPad and regularly communicate with my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews on Face-Time. Technology will always be a bit magic to me, and I’ll keep learning as long as I am able.

What’s the most memorable family vacation you took?

We traveled via car with our children each summer, but one vacation stands out from the rest. We had the opportunity to take several weeks and drive to the east coast where we spent time with family in upper New York and really experienced all there is to do in New York City. We then traveled to Washington D.C. and toured the White House, we saw the Smithsonian Museum, we visited the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and so much more. We even rode an elevator with Eleanor Roosevelt. It was fabulous learning experience for us all.

How should a person prepare for growing older?

I tell my children and grandchildren this all the time — save, save, save. Putting money aside and preparing for retirement solves most problems that might arise.

What have you liked best about your life so far?

I loved being a mother and a wife, and raising my children to be good people was so important. My husband and I were happily married for 66 years. My proudest moment was seeing all of my children and grandchildren complete their educations and become successful adults.


Alberta Bishop

Rigden Farm Senior Living

Fort Collins, Colorado

Birthday: June 23, 1917

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

We let each other do our own thing. Respect!

What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?

The 10 Commandments.

 

What’s your first, most vivid memory?

A horse drawn ice cream cart. He would ring his little bell and I would ask my mother for a nickel to get some ice cream. It was a little wooden cart with one horse pulling it.

What inventions do you most remember?

Television. We would all gather and listen to the radio but then the TV came around so we had to change how we gathered.

What’s different about growing up today from when you were growing up?

Today material things are easy to come by. Back then everything we had we cherished and we did not have a lot.

What are your happiest moments?

Being with my family and giving birth to my first child.


Gertrude Matusofsky

Creve Coeur Assisted Living & Memory Care

Creve Coeur, Missouri

Birthday: April 3, 1917

What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?

You should love your kids for who they are.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

We always got along because we agreed on most things; we were on an even keel.

Did you have any heroes or role models when you were a child?

My parents were my heroes; they were from the old country and worked very hard. I started working at age 12 and have worked most of my life.

What’s different about growing up today from when you were growing up?

Kids have more now. When we were growing up, we got by with very little and no one noticed because we all were the same.

What’s the best thing about growing older?

The best thing is I still feel in control and I am in good health.

What’s your happiest or proudest moment in your life so far?

I have three daughters, one son and nine grandkids. And everyone gets along. I’m proud that they all have a college education because that’s one thing you can never take away.


Miranda Teater

Parkrose Estates Retirement Community

Liverpool, New York

Birthday: September 14, 1917

Some people say that they have had difficult or stressful experiences but they have learned important lessons from them, is that true for you?

Yes, never plan ahead for a lifetime. My husband and I did that and he passed away prematurely. Take each day as it comes and be flexible.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

Be faithful.

What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?

Be honest, faithful and true to your partner and love your kids for they will be your future caregivers. Love the Lord and follow His teachings.

What inventions do you most remember?

Electric lights. When they were put into our house, I was seven; I ran from room to room and turned every switch on because I was so fascinated.

What’s the hardest thing about growing older?

Not able to do everything I used to do due to poor health and aging in general. One of the best things about getting older has been living at Parkrose with all my friends and having all my needs met.

How should a person prepare for growing older?

Take care of yourself and be active! Try to stay healthy in mind and body.


Walter DiPietro

Gardens at Westlake Senior Living

Westlake, Ohio

Birthday: July 3, 1916

What is the most important lesson You’ve learned?

To be on the ball and make sure things are done correctly. Learned to have a good hard work ethic, treat people decently and help others who are less fortunate.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

Married to Alma for 53 years. Keeping busy, doing the chores and sharing responsibilities.

What’s your first memory?

Having chickens in the yard .

What’s different about growing up today?

People lived with their families even when they got older. And always doing something to make money — kids today don’t seem to have to do that.

What’s the hardest thing about growing older?

Friends are no longer around. Being with family is the best.

What have you liked best about your life so far?

My daughter Natalie. She played sports and is a good kid.

What have been the most influential experiences?

All the different jobs I did to make money for the family: selling newspapers, polishing shoes, food delivery and delivering coal in wheelbarrows.


Jack Mettham

Mountain Park Senior Living

Phoenix, Arizona

Birthday: July 28, 1917

Jack Mettham was born in Blackpool, England, a seaside resort. He had three sons with his wife of many years. He worked in the meat packing industry for approximately 12 years after graduating from high school, went into the Navy from 1943 to 1946 and worked on a Tugboat as an electrician. He spent most of his time in the Mediterranean. After the Navy, he went back in the meat packing industry for a short time and went on to become a firefighter.

What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?

You cannot have everything you want. My dream was to be a police officer, and it didn’t work out. I became a firefighter instead, and was still able to live a happy, fulfilled life.

Some people say that they have had difficult or stressful experiences but they have learned important lessons from them. Is that true for you?

I’ve had many stressful experiences being in the Navy and especially working as a firefighter. What I’ve learned from these experiences is to learn to trust and to be able to get along well with everyone.

As you look back over your life, do you see any “turning points” that changed the course of your life or set you on a different track?

My dream was to be a police officer … I took the test and passed, but during that time, the college graduates were having a difficult time finding jobs, so they were given extra points on their test scores and were pushed up ahead of me, so I did not get chosen. Someone I knew asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a firefighter, and I told him no. I then thought about that as a profession and pursued it. I was chosen to do the training and became a firefighter and worked for 30 years on the fire department in New York. I went from firefighter to lieutenant to captain.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

Knowing the person and being good friends. I met my wife when I was 15 years old on a beach in Manhattan, and she passed away in 2006.

What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?

Honesty and respect for everyone. I was brought up in a time when people had respect for other people. Things are different now.

What inventions do you most remember?

I remember when cars were invented. It was such a difference from the old horse and buggies!

What’s different about growing up today from when you were growing up?

EVERYTHING! Lack of respect for others has changed over the years and the way children are brought up. I worked as a young kid and gave half my salary to my parents. I delivered flowers and food to people as a very young teenager, and I also worked at a movie theatre changing the marquee.

What’s the hardest thing about growing older? The best thing?

Hardest thing is just slowing down. The best thing is being able to look back at my wonderful life.

How should a person prepare for growing older?

Exercise every day and drink two jiggers of scotch a day!

What have you liked best about your life so far?

My family is what I have liked best, and my proudest moments were getting married and bringing up my children.