With the Rev. Ed Bacon by her side Lydia Wilkins blows out a candle as the congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church celebrates her 106th birthday Friday night, January 8, 2010 in Pasadena. Wilkins has a party at the church every year since she turned 100. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)
PASADENA [source link] - Lydia Wilkins was the life of the party at her 106th birthday celebration.
Dozens of friends, family members and fellow church members gathered around her to celebrate Friday at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, where she has been an active member for decades.
"I feel great to have even lived this long," Wilkins said with a smile. The church celebrated her birthday Friday, although Wilkins turns 106 on Tuesday.
Wilkins' daughter, 76-year-old Marjorie Jones, said she and other family members were not surprised to see the energetic matriarch live well past 100.
"I call her the Energizer Bunny," she said.
When asked how she managed to live to 106, Wilkins said, "I have no secret."
Wilkins, who was born and raised in East Orange, N.J., moved to Pasadena with her late husband, William Wilkins, in the 1930s when he became a priest at the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, family members said.
She previously studied education at Temple University in Philadelphia before working as a school teacher.
Wilkins' grandson, Wendell Jones, said his grandmother has seen a lot in her long lifetime.
"It's amazing, at 106, when you think about what history she's been witness to," he said. "A man on the moon, two world wars."
"She learned to drive on a Model T," Jones added. "She was driving until she was 100. We had to talk her out of buying a new car."
Jones said Wilkins broke her hip 18 months ago and astonished the family with her quick recovery.
"Literally, the next week, she was up walking," the grandson said.
She still enjoys her sherry, he added.
Wilkins spent the evening chatting and taking pictures with friends before blowing out the candle on her birthday cake to loud applause.
Church member Jane Karageorge said she joined the church in 1979, when Wilkins was working as an usher at 86 years old.
"She's just wonderfully engaging to all of us," Karageorge said. "Everyone in the church knows Lydia. She knows a little story about all of us."