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Mabel Cooper celebrates her 100th birthday

Mabel Cooper Lake Villwill celebrate her 100th birthday today. Mabel was born April 1 1911 Shelby Ind.

Mabel Cooper of Lake Villa will celebrate her 100th birthday today. Mabel was born on April 1, 1911, in Shelby, Ind.

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In 1911:

William Howard Taft was president of the United States.

The first aircraft landed on a ship.

A fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City killed 146 workers.

New York opened the doors to its first public library.

The Mona Lisa was stolen by an employee, and later was recovered.

Chevrolet entered the market of automobiles to give the Ford Model T some competition.


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Updated: May 31, 2011 4:49AM

Mabel Cooper’s 100th birthday is today. The healthy Indiana native now living in West Miltmore says her doctor predicts she could make it through another decade.

“After 85 everything starts to wear out, but I have no health problems other than failing vision and hearing,” she said, chatting in her daughter Joan Griess’ living room, where she lives with Joan, granddaughter Donna Harms and various grandchildren when they are on college break.

“She’s pretty snappy. She keeps her mind busy by doing puzzles and watching the news and she only needs a walker when she leaves the house,” said Joan, who is in her mid-70s. Mom moved in with her after her husband Ray Griess died in 2005. She has a big house so various other family members stay at her home and all that multigenerational interaction helps keep Mabel in good mental and physical health.

“We are a very close family and most everyone lives nearby,” said Joan. About 40 family members, including two daughters, six grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren will celebrate her birthday Saturday at a dinner party at Lake House Restaurant in Lake Villa. “It’s my mother’s command performance and it will be attended by five generations of family,” said Joan.

While she thinks it’s a big fuss, Mabel likes the idea of everyone being there for her party. She’s already decided after her death she doesn’t want a wake or funeral because it is the final party she would not be able to attend. “All my friends are dead, anyway, and I see my family all the time. They can have a small service and bury me.”

Mabel Hiland grew up in Shelby, Ind. Her dad emigrated from England. He met his wife in the United States and they moved to Indiana where he worked for the railroad but longed to farm. The family eventually rented, and then purchased a farm where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. Mabel’s two brothers worked their lifetimes on the farm after returning from the Navy and Marines, but Mabel moved away and attended a teachers college where she met her husband Mervin Cooper.

Mervin and Mabel married in 1936. They moved to Chicago and raised two daughters, Sharon Lombardo and Joan Griess.

She worked at Sears for 23 years, retiring at age 62 because she was tired of her bosses, and then went on to manage an apartment complex for senior citizens in Bensenville. “I worked there and collected a paycheck into my 80s. I lived by myself until I was 90, when I moved in with my daughter Sharon,” said Mabel.

In 1963 at the age of 54, she got her first driver’s license.

Shortly after Ray’s death in 2005, Mabel moved to West Miltmore. “I have had a very good life. Nothing bad happened to me except for death of friends and family. Ray’s death was one of the saddest times of our lives,” said Mabel. “Ray had the best temperament in the world and his death was hard.”

Joan, who was about to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with Ray when he died, says her mom’s companionship has benefited her. “Helping her and having all our family close by keeps me going.”

Mabel’s biggest concern these days is staying on her feet. “I am most anxious about falling, because if I fall and break a hip or a leg, I am a goner, but I walk by myself as much as possible because staying active is a key to a good and healthy life.”

Besides keeping physically active, her other tips on living a long life include: Eat good food, stay active, stay out of trouble and get an education so you can get a job.

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