GLEN ELLYN – In 1933, Matilda “Tillie” Pankros paid 7 cents to ride a streetcar to the Chicago World’s Fair.
On Friday, she attended another celebration – her 100th birthday party.
Born Feb. 20, 1914, on 51st Street in Chicago’s South Side, Pankros is now a resident of The Meadows of Glen Ellyn, 60 Nicoll Ave.
“She doesn’t think of herself as 100,” senior living center’s executive director Marie Gurnik said. “She doesn’t act like she’s 100.”
Pankros spent much of her early life in Chicago, she said, with the exception of a few years living on a farm in Sodus, Mich., operated by her aunt and uncle. As a young woman, she sold candy at Neisner’s and Goldblatt’s discount stores, before marrying her husband, Chester, a pharmacist, in 1937, with whom she had three sons.
The couple raised their children in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood before moving to suburban Westchester in 1957, she said. When Pankros’ husband died in 1992, she relocated to a condo in Glen Ellyn, taking up residency at The Meadows in October 2013.
Although she built her life in the Chicago area, Pankros traveled extensively, she said, to destinations such as Mexico, the Caiman Islands, Hawaii, Venezuela and Aruba.
She still visits Florida to spend time with her grandchildren.
She has six, as well as eight great-grandchildren.
“She never forgets a birthday or anniversary,” her daughter-in-law, Sheila said. “She is the heartbeat of our family.”
When she was younger, Pankros enjoyed cooking, baking and gardening. She bowled for almost 50 years and drove until she was 97.
“I have a normal life,” she said.
With her genetics, longevity is the expectation not the outlier. Pankros’ mother was 98 when she died, she said, and her elder sister lived to 102.
However, turning a century old is no common occurrence, said Gurnik. Pankros’ is the second 100th birthday The Meadows has celebrated and she is the fourth resident age100 or older to live at the center in recent years.
“Just keep going,” Pankros said, when asked the secret to her vitality. “Working and enjoying life.”