Flash back to 1909: There's little ten-year-old Winnie Lancy at her great-grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary in Vermont. As the festivities die down, her great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran who is about 81 years old, starts talking about something he rarely mentioned: Gettysburg. And Winnie listens with awe as he talks of shaking Abraham Lincoln's hand on the day the 16th President gave his most famous speech. Suddenly her schoolbooks come to life.
Zoom forward to November 11, 2000. There's 101-year-old Winnie standing between President Clinton and actor Tom Hanks at the groundbreaking for the new World War II memorial. She has a place of honor at the ceremony because she is the last known living mother of a soldier killed in World War II. Her son, Norman, was killed August 4, 1944, on what was supposed to be his final air mission before coming home. (She loves Hanks but doesn't care much for Clinton, though she shook his hand anyway.) Winnie, who has lived in Plantation for the past 48 years, earned her own place in history through incredible longevity. Born in 1899, she turned 102 years old April 5; her mind remains remarkably sharp, seemingly resistant to the decaying rigors of time. "God gave me a strong mind," she says. "If my mind ever goes, then I want to go." She's been widowed since 1973 and now lives in Plantation Acres with a daughter, one of her two surviving children out of six. She credits her long life to a good diet (at five-foot-two, she usually weighed a healthy 130) and having never touched cigarettes or alcohol, at least not voluntarily. She says the reason booze repulses her dates back to Christmas in about 1911, when her uncles, playing around, doused her with beer. We're thankful for that prank, since it might have contributed to the reason we have such a human treasure in our midst today.
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