Native lady celebrates her 100th birthday • The Malibu Occasions

The Malibu family celebrates their matriarch who is an inspiration

On the eve of her 100th year, Winifred Wilson is an inspiration to her granddaughter and to many family and friends. The family matriarch, who recently moved to Malibu to be near her closest relatives, lives in a home with four generations of women. Wilson, her daughter, granddaughter, and two great-granddaughters all live in the same home in Malibu. The family planned a celebration in Malibu for “Winnie’s” 100th birthday, not only to celebrate reaching her centenary, but also to honor her years of teaching, philanthropy, kindness and style.

Born in Nebraska in 1923, Wilson grew up in Minnesota. She moved to California to begin nursing training during World War II. Her 75-year-old husband was a prisoner of war in Germany at the time. When the war ended, she specialized in surgical nursing and earned her master’s degree. Wilson had a long association as a nursing administrator and faculty teacher at Golden West College in Orange County for most of her career. Her granddaughter Jen Hardy says her grandmother is the oldest licensed registered nurse and administrator in California. They are two separate categories. “I’m probably the oldest working nurse,” Wilson commented.

Winifred Wilson Nursing photo circa 1940. Photo courtesy.

Just weeks ago, Wilson sold her assisted living business with a consulting contract for the next six months of working remotely. While most seniors retired well before 99, great-grandmother didn’t because “I enjoyed what I was doing.” And she added: “I’ve helped people who needed care. If you enjoy what you do, stay active.” She still drives.

Wilson wanted to be a nurse since 7th grade. “I noticed that other people were caring for children. I saw a woman in uniform and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Wilson became an accomplished businesswoman running home health care agencies. After World War II, when Orange County was teeming with orange groves, Wilson and her husband bought land and invested in healthcare companies and aged care facilities.

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After a lifetime of caring and teaching, Wilson enjoys an active life in Malibu. “I always wanted to move here. I like being able to watch the little ones grow without being responsible for them. It’s very rewarding to see them develop.” Wilson has three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

About 40 people will appear for their 100th birthday. “We have fun planning. I look forward to seeing people flying in and coming from afar. So it’s going to be fun.” Some guests are even traveling from Singapore and London. Many are former nursing students and mentees of Wilson.

“I’ve told everyone it’s my first 100th birthday, but I don’t plan on turning 200.”

Staying active was a key to longevity. Because her children were skiers, Wilson took up the sport later in life in her 60’s. “That was a great achievement, I thought. I’m very proud that I did it and I found out why they were so excited about it. It makes a lot of fun.”

Wilson’s granddaughter Jen Hardy said: “She’s a great woman. I’m surprised she pulled back.”

Hardy also admires many attributes of her grandmother’s work ethic and style. She says the family nicknamed Wilson “The Dowergess” in reference to the character of the Downton Abbey series, Dowager Countess of Grantham, who is always dressed in the finest finery. “She’s always at the top. She dresses in beige and blue. She has stunning blue eyes. She has an elegant appearance. I’ve never seen her scream in my entire life,” Hardy recalled. “And I grew up with my grandmother, who came to every trip, came to every play, came to every important event in my life,” said the lifelong Malibu resident. Hardy’s family had a set room for Wilson in their longtime home in Malibu due to their frequent visits. “She was always with us. That’s why it’s so nice for my girls to know them.”

Hardy says her grandmother told her she was “well preserved” on a diet of butter, flour, sugar, pasta, and the occasional martini.

“I’m glad she chose to stay here to be a great grandmother to my girls because she was such a great grandmother to me. I am so grateful to her. She was calm and logical and so fun-loving and compassionate. I love her so much. We love and admire them.”

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