Lillian Shapiro turned 100 in July. And out of all her accomplishments throughout her life, she hopes her service in the Navy will have meant something.
The recent centenarian — who has lived in Arizona for roughly 40 years and Peoria for 22 — was born July 17, 1919, in Connecticut. Growing up on a farm, she had 11 siblings, one of whom sadly passed away at an early age.
When she was 6 years old, Shapiro decided she wanted to become a teacher.
“When I was little, my mother used to come and get me from the school and she would take my hand and walk around,” Shapiro said. “I’ll never forget this. I told her, ‘I would like to be a teacher someday.’”
However, rather than becoming a teacher, Shapiro realized as a young adult the passion she felt for her country.
When she was 24, she enlisted in the Navy. But enlisting was not simple for Shapiro, who was going against the wishes of her Jewish family.
“I just felt that it was World War II and I wanted to do something, and my mother didn’t talk to me for a very long time,” Shapiro said. “But it was quite an exciting thing to do for my country. I was born here, and I wanted to do something for my country, and I did.”
In the Navy, Sharpio was tasked with handling paperwork and running and helping in the office.
“I took care of an office for a commander … I took care of everything and all the work that had to be done,” Shapiro said. “I felt very proud that I volunteered my services.”
Shapiro enlisted for roughly two years.
But it was after, when she met her husband, Paul, that she decided it was time for her to get back into the work field.
Shapiro took the civil service exam, which she said she passed with flying colors.
She went on to work in the Veteran’s Administration Special Services for a few years before deciding to take time away from work. She had two children.
Shapiro said although she has enjoyed her life, living to be a 100 means a person will face many hardships. Her husband passed away in 1984 from Crohn’s disease.
“I’ve had quite a nice life and I’ve lived a long life and all my friends are deceased,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro’s hardships, however, have never stopped her from being active and relevant in her community. She even was the president of a synagogue.
“I took two trips to Israel, and I took 26 people each time,” Shapiro said.
Today, however, she enjoys spending time reading. She reads about one book a week. Her author of choice is Danielle Steel, who is mostly known for her romance novels.
Shapiro also enjoys eating salads from Olive Garden — her favorite food.
On her birthday, she received over a dozen gifts because the police officers and firefighters attended her birthday party. She even received 140 birthday cards.
Shapiro, however, cares more about what is happening in the country at the time. She said she wishes that politicians would try to resolve their conflicts by discussing the issues rather than continuously fighting with one another.
“I love my country. I love my family. I feel very proud of people. I just feel that it would be wonderful for them to be kinder to each other,” Shapiro said.
Her country is her passion, and she feels the pain of those who suffer because of war or troubled times. She hopes new generations will never have to face the hardships her generation did during World War II.
“I used to go up to Arlington Cemetery, and when I would go to see the graves of little, young kids, 19, 20, 21, 22, like that age, all these crosses and all these stars, they’re all gone,” Shapiro said. “And I just hoped that it wouldn’t happen again.”