Lillian Bailey Trudeau Richards loves to laugh. A lot. And smile, too.
Her family members say that's helped her live a long, joyous life, but Lillian won't take credit for it.
"It's not my doing," she said from her apartment at the Williamsport Home. "It's by the grace of God."
Lillian Bailey Trudeau Richards, second from top, is shown during her surprise birthday party. She turned 100 years old on Sept. 18, 2012, and her family celebrated at Country Cupboard, Lewisburg. The family of Lillian Bailey Trudeau Richards poses above during her 100th birthday celebration. She had family from several states attend the surprise party in her honor. At top left is Richards’ nursing school graduation photo, and at top right, is her wedding photo to Joseph Trudeau.
Lillian, who turned 100 years old on Sept. 18, 2012, said that eating a balanced diet has helped keep her healthy, along with regular activity, like walking.
Her daughter, Pam Nagy, of Montoursville, is amazed at how busy Lillian keeps her schedule and how fiercely independent she is.
"She's lived alone until he was 97 years old," Nagy said. "But she has a lot of friends here and even does her own laundry."
Nagy said Lillian refuses to go into assisted living because "she wants to do her own thing," which includes preparing her own breakfast and lunch and waking up whenever she likes.
"I have it pretty easy here," Lillian said. "I just have to take care of this old lady," she said with a laugh.
When she was younger, Lillian said she smoked for a bit, until she read a book by Dale Evans in which Evans described how "God took smoking away from her."
Lillian decided she would quit smoking immediately, throwing her cigarettes in the trash can. Later, Nagy recalled, Lillian said her mother's hand was guided by God when she was tempted to take the cigarettes out of the garbage and physically could not.
"She has strong faith, and good reason for it," Nagy said.
A former member of Faxon-Kenmar United Methodist Church, Lillian now attends church services each Sunday at the Williamsport Home and attends Bible study every other Monday with the Faxon-Kenmar pastor.
Although Lillian was born and raised in Williamsport, she did spend four years pursuing a degree in registered nursing at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. As part of her training, she was sent to New York, so she could practice as a nurse in both states.
She married Joseph Trudeau in 1936 and enjoyed nearly 30 years of marriage with "My Joey" before he passed in 1966.
After he passed away, Lillian began working for the OB-GYN offices of Drs. Hipple, Nelson, Cooper and Lyon, where she worked until her retirement at age 67.
Lillian began working full time after Trudeau's death to support her family, and often stopped at her daughters' homes on her way home from work.
Her granddaughter, Heather Baldwin, said she remembers her Nan stopping by "to use the bathroom" after work, just to see her daughter and grandchildren. Baldwin said when Nan left, she would stop at the picture window so they could wave to each other.
Her family keeps in close contact with her, even though many live across the United States. She has two daughters, Nagy and Patricia "Paddy" Baldwin, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
During a surprise birthday party for her in September at the Country Cupboard, Lewisburg, Lillian was pleased that members of her family traveled from eight states to celebrate with her.
Lillian also was honored by the Lycoming County Commissioners and received an emblem from County Sheriff Mark Lusk, which she joked was a free pass to get out of jail.
"That's one thing about Mother, she always laughs," Nagy said. "She has a sense of humor and she can laugh at herself."
Lillian has seen a lot of changes during her lifetime, but the one modern technology she can't live without is her microwave, which she uses to heat up her meals.
When televisions first came out, Lillian said, "I don't want one of those," and she doesn't use it much today, except to listen to the music channel that's streamed through the Home.
She prefers, instead, to read the large-print editions of "Readers Digest," with her favorite stories being the inspirational ones.
She's been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 70 years, and also has seen changes in the way she manages it.
"When I was younger they told me to cut down on sugar, so I didn't put it in my coffee," Lillian said. "But it's much more than that ... I think having a regular diet and following Dr. [Margrit M.] Shoemaker's ways has helped a lot."
The family credits Shoemaker with saving Lillian's life several times, because she is a doctor who listens and doesn't just shuffle Lillian off because of her age.
"I'd rather have diabetes than other things, because I can control it," Lillian said. She said her favorite food is ice cream, but she can't eat it too often.
"But I don't refuse it," Lillian said with a laugh.
Years ago, Lillian had glass syringes for her insulin, and she had to heat the needles with a spoon over a fire or Bunsen burner. Then, she used the disposable needles, until switching to an insulin pen.
Baldwin said it took her a long time to accept using the insulin pen because she was so accustomed to using syringes from her years as a nurse.
The family said monitoring Lillian's blood sugar also has helped them know when she was having health issues, because her blood sugar would spike whenever something was wrong - even if she didn't get a fever or have other symptoms.
"She had her appendix out at 95 years old with no fever," Nagy said, adding that Lillian had her hernia repaired over the summer.
Although Lillian leads an active life, participating in Bible class and the Red Hat Ladies Society at the Home, she still takes time for a "lazy day" every now and then.
Nagy said her mother also has been a source of strength for her, as well as an inspiration.
"When my husband passed in 2000, she spent a month with me," Nagy said. "She helped me deal with the anger, frustration and tears ... she wasn't just my mom, but we were sisters in kind."
When Nagy decided to move back to Pennsylvania from Ohio, Lillian helped her clean the garage and haul things to the curb.
"Here she was, 80 years old, moving scraps of wood," Nagy said. "She said, 'we've got work to do, Pammy' ... I don't know where she gets all her strength."
Nagy and Baldwin both recalled the love Lillian had for Trudeau, saying "no one could fill Joey's shoes."
Lillian said she and her sisters - the late Martha Patterson and Dorothy Bostley - all married men named Joe, so they had to say "my Joe" for clarity.
Baldwin said that after Pop-Pop died, Lillian moved in with her family, staying in the room across from hers.
"She had a white Bible with a zipper and I would crawl into bed with her so we could read the Ruth and Naomi story from the 'Jesus book,' " Baldwin recalled. "She was very close with all of her nieces and nephews, too, and help take care of them when they were growing up."
"I keep in touch with them and they keep in touch with me," Lillian said about her family.
Lillian proudly displays in her living room part of the silver tea set she received as a 25th wedding anniversary gift.
"She loves polishing silver," Baldwin joked, saying she was going to bring over some of her silver for Lillian to clean.
"I've been blessed and privileged to live this long and see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up," Lillian said with a smile. "I take it day by day."