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Sylvania Township woman toasts 108th year

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Lillian Fowler and great-great niece Eleanor Kelso celebrate Mrs. Fowler's 108th birthday yesterday at Fairways Restaurant in Sylvania Township. Mrs. Fowler still enjoys a martini - she had one at lunch.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Lillian Fowler was born in the eighth month of a new century, and she has thrived through the eighth year of her second century.

"I don't feel old yet," Mrs. Fowler said yesterday, her 108th birthday.

"Should I feel old? I was 40, and then I was 108."

At 108, Mrs. Fowler is the oldest person in the 10-county service area of the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio.

"To our knowledge, based on the records we have here, she is the oldest one," said Billie Johnson, the agency's president and chief executive officer.

She added: "But there's always somebody out there we don't know about."

When Mrs. Fowler learned of the distinction, "she put her finger up and said, 'I'm No. 1,'•" her niece, Pam Kelso, said.

"She is a competitor: She loves life and conversation, and she has a great interest in everything that goes on around her."

The office on aging keeps count of centenarians by reviewing publications in Defiance, Erie, Fulton,

Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood coun-ties, said Justin Moor, an agency vice president.

By the most recent count, 27 people age 100 or older live in its territory, 21 of those in Lucas County, Mr. Moor said.

Mrs. Fowler has lived at Sunset Village in Sylvania Township since 2003.

For her 108th, she and family members - including her sister, Paula Hayes, 87 - went out for lunch.

She has practiced healthy living since her 20s, when she read the book You Are What You Eat. She eats lots of vegetables and minds her calories and eats little red meat.

The book's author touted plain yogurt for longevity, "and I had yogurt from that day on," Mrs. Fowler said from her armchair, sipping late afternoon coffee.

And she still enjoys a martini. She had one at lunch.

Mrs. Fowler grew up in Cleveland, the eldest of eight girls and third of her parents' 10 children overall. She worked from ages 14 to 85, mostly as a secretary and accountant.

She married Milan Fowler in 1942, and the couple lived in Miami and North Carolina. He died in 1964.

"She golfed and gardened and maintained her physical health," her niece said.

And she maintains her appearance - shiny red polish on her nails yesterday, her hair done.

A carnation was pinned to her denim shirt, embroidered with flowers. And she showed off her pewter-colored shoes, a birthday gift.

"I'm going to wear them the rest of my life," she said.

She doesn't entertain regrets. She listens to books on tape and to classical music on public radio.

"I'm just glad to be alive each day," she said.

Nor is she pessimistic, despite climate change and economic storms.

"I think it would make it more simple to take it one day at a time: not worry about the future or be sad about the past," she said.

She has one disappointment of recent vintage:

She was an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter.

"I want a woman in the White House!" she said. "Women understand things. Women are more practical.

"They take care of things all their lives. They've been taking care of men," she said, pointing a polished finger for emphasis, "taking care of children, solving all our problems. I hope to have one before I die."

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.

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