Although the number of centenarians is rapidly growing, having a hundredth birthday is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience for very many people. My mother-in-law, Blanche Lippincott, is one of those people, and I pause today to celebrate with her.
Blanche was born 100 years ago in Tucson, in the newly admitted state of Arizona. Her family soon moved to Ray, Arizona, a now deserted copper mining community, where they lived until she was about twelve. When the the copper industry declined, her parents, along with a few aunts and uncles, decided to move back to Philadelphia.
After high school she worked for a few years in the accounting department for the telephone company. In 1937 she met and married Ezra Lippincott, and they lived happily ever after – although ever after came a bit sooner than expected. He died unexpectedly early in 1969, leaving her a widow at only 57.
During those happy years they enjoyed entertaining, and their parties were always a hit. They took several Caribbean cruises back when ships were smaller and dinner was a full dress event.
After his death, she began a new career, working as a teller for a neighborhood bank, a job she held until she was forced to retire at the age of seventy.
If you asked her, she’d tell you she has had a rather ordinary life, and so it may seem to some. She’s never done anything truly flamboyant. She hasn’t set records, started a business, or written a best-seller. But she has tackled life with gusto, always open to new adventures and experiences. She’s played golf and bridge. She collected and refurbished antiques. She took tailoring lessons and dancing lessons. She belonged to Questers for dozens of years.
Perhaps her most important attribute is her devotion to family, friends and community. When she married she became a member of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, and she has been a steadfast member ever since, serving on countless committees and helping with events. No family member or friend ever has to ask for help – things are taken care of, often before the need is recognized. She always has something good to say about anyone she speaks of, and she excels at showing gratitude and appreciation.
In 1994 she moved into an independent living apartment in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, and within a short time she knew virtually every one of about 150 residents along with their life stories. Every time we’d go from her apartment to the central area, we’d have to stop a dozen times as she greeted another resident and introduced one or both of us. It has often been difficult to reach her by phone because she’s always out at an activity. Until recently that often included playing bridge, but her eyesight has deteriorated so much that’s no longer possible. When she quit driving five or six years ago, she retired from the local hospital thrift shop where she had served as a volunteer for over twenty years.
I could not ask for a sweeter, more supportive and helpful mother-in-law, nor is anyone prouder than she of her two children and their spouses, her five grandchildren and their spouses, and her six great-grandchildren. She is the most optimistic person I know, and should I live to be 100, I hope I’ll be as vital and involved as she continues to be.
Happy Birthday Blanche. May your good health and happiness continue for every one of your remaining days.