CRYSTAL LAKE – Grace Hamilton has seen a lot in her 104 years, but at least one thing has remained constant.
“Oatmeal,” Hamilton said. “We had to have oatmeal for breakfast when I was a kid and now I still have oatmeal.”
Hamilton celebrated her 104th birthday Friday at Sunrise Senior Living in Crystal Lake.
She sat down with Northwest Herald reporter Jeff Engelhardt to reflect on her life and give sage advice to those seeking a long and happy life.
Engelhardt: So, what has been the secret to a long and happy life?
Hamilton: Always working and always eating the proper food. When my mother needed help, we helped her. We did what we could. And I always made sure to eat good food.
[Hamilton now frequently eats dessert before dinner, which she also attributes to a long and happy life.]
Engelhardt: What kind of work did you do when you were younger?
Hamilton: I did not have a job, I would not be able to back in that time. Maybe because I’m a stubborn person. But the girls helped on the farm. We picked berries and vegetables and we wrapped the trees around the trunks so the rabbits could not get to them.
Engelhardt: Did you ever think you would see the kind of changes you experienced like cellphones and computers?
Hamilton: Oh no. I even wondered how everyone was going to learn to read at one time.
Engelhardt: Do you like where the world is now or do you feel a simpler time was better?
Hamilton: Well, people have so many great things now that we didn’t have then, but we had things back then that people don’t have now. We had to handwash dishes and clothes. We had a lot of work always divided among us. People don’t have that today.
Engelhardt: After all these years, what is it that still keeps you happy today?
Hamilton: Having our family all together. I always loved when my cousins would come over when I was younger. We always had a lot of company.
Engelhardt: I see you are also a writer. How long have you been writing about your experiences? Is it like a journal? [Hamilton has a collection of short stories titled ‘Creative Writings of the Past’ based on her experiences]
Hamilton: I like the stories now because it helps me to remember. We saved everything back then. I have tried to influence a lot of people to write that had more interesting lives than I did.
Engelhardt: Any other advice you could give people looking to live long and happy lives?
Hamilton: Just eat good food.
The Hamilton lowdown
Name: Grace Hamilton
Hometown: New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois and more
Family: A lot of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren
Favorite Hobby: Canoeing
Favorite Book: Her own collection of life stories