St. Clair ShoresJune 25, 2012
‘Living … day to day’ secret of life for 103-year-old
By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer
The average lifespan in 1909 was 47 years.
Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub, and the average wage was 22 cents an hour. Sugar cost just 4 cents a pound, and coffee cost 15 cents a pound.
That was also the year Matilda Sanderson, nee Henderson, was born in Canada.
“You’re looking terrific,” said Mayor Kip Walby June 18, asking Sanderson the secret of her longevity as City Council issued a proclamation in honor of her 103rd birthday.
“I worked hard all my life. I never smoked, and I never drank,” Sanderson said. “I’m going to do my best to be here for 104.”
Sanderson, who prefers to be called Tillie, still does her own laundry and makes her own bed. She lives in Leisure Manor with a cat named Cindy.
“Everything’s changed so … much,” she said. “Cars, planes, all that stuff. The first car I saw was an old Model T.”
She still remembers the rubber tires on the horses-drawn buggies that were the usual mode of transportation in her younger years. She’s never driven a car.
Most of her 23 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren are scattered throughout the country, but her daughter Ann Bobeck, 67, lives in St. Clair Shores, as do a few others, including granddaughter Lori Demars, who comes regularly to help Sanderson clean.
In addition to Bobeck, Sanderson has another daughter in Boston named Marguerite. She buried three other children — Robert, Richard and Bernice — who lost battles with cancer.
Sanderson was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, April 21, 1909, but left the country at 18 years old for Boston because “there was nothing to do on the farm.” She lost her own mother at 11 years old.
She worked as a live-in housekeeper for $8 a week in Boston before meeting Robert Sanderson and getting married in 1930.
“Living from day to day,” Sanderson said is her secret.
She said she’s had heart trouble and has 10 stents, and she can’t see out of one eye because of cataracts and has trouble hearing.
But she still knits scarves for the homeless, and bakes and cooks for her neighbors who can’t get around as well as she does.
“Another lady is 96. I make a big pot of chicken soup, and I bring it over to her,” said Sanderson.
Bobeck said there have been plenty of times she didn’t think her mother was going to make it past the century mark.
“You have no idea. Over the years, I’ve made emergency runs thinking she was gone,” she said. “She had a hard life, but she’s kicking butt now.”
Bobeck still talks to her mother at least three times a day and said nothing surprises her. Sanderson got her first radio in 1933 and her first TV in 1953.
Those looking to have a long life should “be themselves; don’t do anything they shouldn’t do,” Sanderson said. “Don’t get themselves in trouble.
“I never thought I’d reach 80, never mind 100.”
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