Helen Cook was born May 15, 1917 and on Monday she turned 100. Born a year before World War I ended, Cook lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the Great Recession.
“Helen’s the oldest in our family of 10,” her sister, Mary Coch, said. “I’m the youngest. We’re the only ones living — the siblings.”
Helen, now living at Vista Care Center of Milan, wore pink pants with a pink blazer on her special day. She didn’t talk much as she sat calmly in her wheelchair, but Mary, 83, was right by her side to help her out.
Helen retired from Norwalk Furniture and throughout her life she had helped raise her siblings, Mary said. Helen never had any children.
When they were growing up, money was hard to come by. Helen learned that early on, especially since she was the oldest of 10.
“We didn’t have much,” her sister said. “If you were lucky you got an ice cream cone. Nobody had cars — she had one later in life.”
Helen never thought of taking up a hobby or starting a more prominent career because money always was tight, Mary said. “She worked for everything she ever had.”
That didn’t mean she didn’t have a good life, though.
“We still had a good time as far as a big family went,” Mary said, wanting to emphasize that. “We had to work together.”
Helen had her spot within her family, especially when it came to baking and housework. Her pies were a real hit, since “everyone depended on them,” Mary said with a laugh.
Although her husband died in the 1980s, Helen was not alone in her life. Mary lived with her for 11 years.
Not 10 minutes passed since Mary had started talking and Helen’s nephew, Larry Smith, walked into his aunt’s room holding birthday balloons in one hand.
He made sure to joke with her about a minute after he walked in, setting down the balloons in front of her so she could see them.
“How old are you?” Smith asked Helen, teasing. “100,” she responded; smiling and nodding a little.
More family entered the room after Smith had. All of them were standing in front of Helen, ready to celebrate the occasion.
“We took care of her, didn’t we?” Smith asked proudly.
As for Helen’s future plans, she’s got it all figured out.
“She’s going to celebrate all week — that’s what she told me,” Mary told Smith with good humor. She’s planning on eating a lot of cake too, she added.
Now 100 years old, Helen was surrounded with family, balloons and cake. A caretaker had paused in front of Helen’s doorway; smiled at the moment, and then walked away.
“She’s done pretty good for herself,” Smith said.