Born in 1907, Mildred Lemos has seen it all.
The 105-year-old resident celebrated a milestone birthday yesterday, and is now exactly five years away from supercentenarian status, of which there are only 71 people worldwide.
One of seven children, Lemos was born in Hancock, NY, a small town on the New York/Pennsylvania border to a German mother and French (Alsatian) father. She was educated by her sister, a teacher, in classes taught in a one-room schoolhouse. Eventually, Lemos struck out on her own, moving to Westchester County and starting what became a 40-year teaching career in the Harrison school system in which she never missed a day of work.
What’s her secret? Unsurprisingly, she lived a life of moderation.
“She lived in the slow lane,” said Steven Irace, Lemos’ nephew, speaking on her behalf.
“She didn’t drink or smoke—she never sat around, she was always active,” he said, continuing, "She lived through history as we know it—she saw the telegraph, the telephone, jet planes, moon landings and computers."
Good genes may also have played a part. One of Lemos’ sisters lived to be 100, her mother passed away at 92 and several other sisters lived until they were 93.
“They [Lemos women] were liberated before anyone else was,” said Eugene Irace, Lemos’ nephew, adding that several of the sisters were also world travelers, visiting far-flung locations like Afghanistan during a time when women didn’t often travel alone.
Alice Chokwe, Lemos’ home health aid, said that Lemos was a healthy eater, often concocting meals at home from her wide selection of cookbooks.
But it was her independent streak and willingness to work hard that really made her an example to others.
“She was a totally liberated, self-supporting woman…a role model,” said Steven.