Leora Wilson got the surprise of her life when Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos stopped by her home to wish her a happy 101st birthday.
The mayor presented Wilson with a certificate of congratulations and then knelt down and sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
“Oh my gosh. I’ll never get over this,” said the astonished Wilson. “Thank you so much!”
Having the opportunity to personally visit a local senior about to celebrate such an important milestone is a very special honor for the mayor.
“It is my privilege to be here and be your mayor!” he said.
In addition, Frutos presented Wilson with an “I love Burbank” lapel pin and See’s Candies butterscotch suckers — her favorite.
Wilson was born on Sept. 13, so her birthday is Sunday. Instead of having a big party like last year, this year family members will be taking turns treating her to meals throughout the month.
On her 100th birthday, family and friends gave her a total of 500 See’s suckers and that satisfied her sweet tooth for about seven months.
Still very active, Wilson reads the two local newspapers everyday and does both crossword puzzles — in pen — and completes them and the Word Jumble. She also loves reading books and is currently immersed in a biography on Candice Bergen.
“My mom really is a hoot and has a remarkable sense of humor,” Diane Wilson-Leggewie said. “She laughs easily, which I’m sure has helped her live as long as she has.”
Recently, Wilson read out loud something from the newspaper about Sophie Tucker. It said Tucker was born when the Dead Sea was only sick.
“Mom couldn’t stop laughing at that and I’m sure that comment is going to be one that she repeats. She is a joy and I appreciate her tremendously!” Wilson-Leggewie said.
Wilson lives with her daughter and granddaughter Jessica Leggewie in the longtime family home.
Wilson was born in Oklahoma and moved to Fresno, then Los Angeles and came to Burbank in 1941 after she married her husband, Lorin. They raised four children — Dennis, Gary, John and Diane. There are 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
While she was in Fresno, she became part of a trio of young women that traveled up the West Coast promoting Chiclets gum. They distributed samples to customers dressed in green uniforms. While visiting Santa Rosa, she met her future husband Lorin.
“He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was going to the newspaper office to see if they would give me a write up,” she said.
Lorin told her if she got the article published in the newspaper, he would take her and the other girls to dinner.
“And they did and he did,” Wilson said, and the rest is history.
Lorin was a traveling salesman and Wilson was often left at home alone to care for their children. It seemed like the boys always got hurt while he was away, she said.
“My mom should get an award for raising three boys,” her daughter said.
Lorin passed away in 1989.
Over the years, Wilson volunteered as a den mother in Boy Scouts, PTA room mother, judge with the election board and a member of the March of Dimes committee.
This is the second Burbank home the family has lived in and many of the neighbors are the same. Wilson was a teacher in her early years and continued to correct English of her children and her children’s friends who came by the house, her daughter said.
Wilson’s secrets to longevity are taking long walks and gardening.
“If I started a flower bed, I had to keep going until I got it complete or it got dark and I couldn’t see,” she said.
When she used to cook, she made delicious chicken-fried steak and lemon merengue pie.
“Her chocolate cakes were great!” Wilson-Leggewie said. “We were well fed growing up. She was always cooking something.”
Now having three generations in the house is joyful, all three generations agree.
“It’s Heaven to live with my daughter and granddaughter,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t happen very often. They are good natured and we get along well.”
“My daughter cuts my mom’s hair and I can hear them in the bathroom telling stories to each other and then they’ll burst out laughing. It’s so sweet to hear this!” Wilson-Leggewie said.
Granddaughter Jessica Leggewie said what she likes about her grandma is she’s incredibly sassy.
“I think she’s getting sassier the older she gets and I think that’s what keeps her young.”
Grandma always played tricks on her granddaughter when she was a kid.
“You would turn around to get something out of the cupboard and when you came back around, the plate would be gone,” Jessica Leggewie said. “She doesn’t hide things any more but she still has that playful nature.”