Lillian Western was a school nurse at Lincoln Elementary School and the assistant director of nursing at the Stockley Center in Georgetown
Western, who will turn 98 on April 4, has been living in the Milford-area since 1947. She worked as a school nurse at the former Lincoln Elementary School and as the assistant director of nursing at the Stockley Center in Georgetown until 1977. In 1999, the couple moved from Lincoln to Milford to live with their oldest daughter, Helene and her husband John. August died in 2008, and today Western is living just off the Mispillion River with her youngest daughter, Joan and her husband Sudler.
Q What first brought you to Milford?
A My husband was a poultry man in New Jersey and the company he worked for, Sussex Poultry, moved here and we did too. My mother wasn't very fond of the area when she first visited. She called it God forsaken because there was nothing here, and there were all these places with names like Murderkill, Broadkill and Slaughter Beach. But she changed her mind about Milford once the theater opened on Walnut Street. After that, she changed her mind and would take the train down to visit us and see the shows they had there.
Q How did you come to pursue a career in nursing?
A When I was young, families lived close together and my grandfather Murphy would come stay with us. When I was 8, he got sick so I took him his meals, and he started calling me his little nurse. After that, whenever a relative got sick, I would take care of them. From then on, all I heard was, 'She's going to be a nurse.' The next thing I knew, I was studying to be a nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton.
Q But it took about 15 years before you actually started working as a nurse, right?
A I got married after I graduated and, at that time, the Catholic Church frowned on mothers working outside the home, so I raised my children. My oldest son, Karl, had a chance to attend Archmere Academy in Wilmington and after all the turmoil, when they wouldn't let the black children in the same school as the whites, he got very upset by that. He didn't agree with it and wanted to leave. Around the same time, we were at Mass one Sunday when the priest mentioned a job opening at the Stockley Center, so I decided to apply because we needed the money for Karl to go school and to educate the rest of our children. And I'm glad I did. Today, four out of the six of them work in the medical field.
Q You'll be 98 next month. What's the secret to your longevity?
A When I was a girl, I thought when you turned 60 that was it. Well, that was a long time ago and I can't believe I'm still here. I think keeping busy is important and living on a farm, there was always something to do in the garden, in the poultry houses, or with all the animals we had. I always said, if you rest, you rust. So I keep as busy as I can, even still.
MORE ABOUT WESTERN
HOMETOWN Hightstown, N.J.
FAMILY Sons, Karl, Eddie, Paul and Michael; Daughters, Helene and Joan
EDUCATION Hightstown High School, Class of 1934; St. Francis School of Nursing in Trenton, N.J., Class of 1937; completed nursing courses at the University of Delaware
FAVORITE FOOD White potatoes
FAVORITE BOOK "Captains and Kings" by Taylor Caldwell
HOBBIES Quilting, sewing, playing cards and dominoes