Local woman celebrates her 100th birthday

Winifred "Winnie" Wilson (left) with her daughter, Lee Hardy, granddaughter, Jenny Hardy-Parke and two great-granddaughters Emerson Parke and Madison Parke. Contributed photo 

Malibu family celebrates their matriarch, who’s an inspiration 

On the eve of turning 100-years-old, Winifred Wilson is an inspiration to her granddaughter and many family members and friends. The family matriarch, who recently moved to Malibu to be near her closest relatives, lives in a home with four generations of women. Wilson, her daughter, granddaughter, and two great-granddaughters all live in the same Malibu home. The family planned a celebration in Malibu for “Winnie’s” 100th birthday to not only celebrate the achievement of reaching her milestone centennial, but to honor her years of teaching, philanthropy, kindness, and style.

Wilson was born in 1923 in Nebraska and raised in Minnesota. She moved to California to begin nursing education during the WWII years. Her husband of 75 years was a POW in Germany at the time. When the war was ending, she specialized in operating room nursing and earned her master’s degree. Wilson had a long association as a nursing administrator and faculty teacher at Golden West College in Orange County for most of her career. Her granddaughter Jen Hardy says her grandmother is the oldest licensed registered nurse and administrator in California. They are two separate categories. “I’m probably the oldest working nurse,” Wilson commented. 

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Winifred Wilson nursing photo circa 1940. Photo courtesy.

Just weeks ago, Wilson sold her assisted living facility business with a consulting agreement for the next six months working remotely. While most senior citizens retire well before 99, the great-grandmother didn’t because “I enjoyed what I was doing.” And she added, “I was providing a service to people who needed care. If you enjoy what you’re doing you keep active.” She still drives. 

Wilson wanted to become a nurse since 7th grade. “I noticed other people taking care of children. I saw a woman in a uniform and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Wilson became a savvy business woman running home health care agencies. After WWII when Orange County was filled with orange groves Wilson and her husband bought land and invested in health care businesses and elder care facilities. 

After a lifetime of caring for others and teaching Wilson is enjoying an active life in Malibu. “I always planned to move here. I like the opportunity to watch the little ones grow without being responsible for them. It’s very rewarding to watch them develop.” Wilson has three children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

About 40 people will show up to her 100th birthday party. “We’re having fun planning it. I look forward to seeing people who are flying in and coming from a distance. So, it’ll be fun.” Some guests are traveling from as far away as Singapore and London. Many are Wilson’s former nursing students and mentees. 

 “I told everybody it is my first 100th birthday, but I’m not planning to live to 200.”  

Staying active has been a key to longevity. Since her children were skiers Wilson finally took up the sport later in life in her 60’s. “That was a big accomplishment I thought. I’m very proud of having been able to do that and I found out why they were so enthusiastic about it. It’s lots of fun.” 

Wilson’s granddaughter Jen Hardy said, “She’s a great lady. I’m surprised she retired.” 

Hardy admires many attributes of her grandmother’s work ethic and style as well. She says the family has nicknamed Wilson “The Dowergess” in a nod to the Downton Abbey series character Dowager Countess of Grantham who is always turned out in the loveliest finery. “She’s always in lace. She dresses in beiges and blues. She has stunning blue eyes. She has an elegant demeanor. I’ve never seen her yell in my entire life,” Hardy recalled. “And I was raised with my grandmother coming on every trip, coming to every play, coming to every major event in my life,” the lifelong Malibu resident said. Hardy’s family kept a permanent room for Wilson in their longtime Malibu home due to her frequent visits. “She was always with us. That’s why it’s so nice for my girls to know her.”

Hardy says her grandmother has told her she’s “well preserved” with a diet of butter, flour, sugar, pasta, and the occasional martini. 

“I’m glad she wanted to stick around to be a great-grandma for my girls because she was such a great grandmother for me. I’m so grateful for her. She’s been co calm and logical and so fun about life and compassionate. I love her so much. We love and admire her.”