100-year-old’s secret? Reading and eating lightly

Teresa Baker

Happy 100th birthday, Teresa!

By Nausheen Husain
nhusain@mysuburbanlife.com

Westmont resident Teresa Baker has some advice for the young people of today: read more.

That’s what the newly 100-year-old offered up with other tips last week, days after she marked her centennial birthday May 30.

“I understand that people don’t read as much as they used to,” said Baker, who was born and raised in Chicago and worked as a cashier at Helping Hand Thrift Shop in Brookfield for 25 years. “They should try. Modern technology and all the new gadgets are difficult, but books are books.”

To her friends, Baker is an inspiration at age 100.

“She has lived so much, and she is so upbeat,” friend and former colleague Ann Ostrander said. “She never complains. It’s refreshing.”

Baker lived in the Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago as a child and attended Washington Irving Elementary School, where she skipped two grades.

She graduated from McKinley High School at age 16, attended Crane Junior College for six months and then began her working life at 18. She said she worked “with numbers and figures” at the main office of Sears. She later worked as a bookkeeper in Broadview, too.

Baker married Frank Baker at the age of 25, and has been a widow since 1988. She spends time with her family – a 93-year-old sister living in Downers Grove and three children – as much as possible. She also spends her days crocheting, painting, doing crossword puzzles, watching “Jeapordy” and, of course, reading. She is a fan of James Patterson novels.

To celebrate the birthday, Ostrander helped organize a surprise party for Baker at Tony’s Restaurant in Brookfield.

“Honestly, I didn’t know if we should surprise her or not,” Ostrander said. “But we thought we’d give it a shot; it was a big birthday, and she’s pretty healthy.”

Baker attributes her health to eating lightly and walking.

“They had streetcars and buses when I was younger, but I liked to walk to school, even in the snow. It was about a mile-and-a-half away from where I lived,” she said.

Does she know the secret of life?

“No, I have no idea,” she said, though she did have some recommendations. “Get interested in things you like to do, keep up with the times and read a newspaper regularly.”

*This story was originally published in the June 13, 2012 issue of the Westmont Progress. It was not posted online.

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