105-year-old woman driver’s license, “I was sure glad she did that”.
When Lois Estes Paulson turned 90 years old in 2004, her daughter Betty Goff threw her a party.
“I was sure glad she did that, because I wasn’t sure I would be here at 100,” Paulson said.
But in 2014, when she turned 100, there was another celebration.
“This has got to be it,” Paulson remembers thinking at the time. “But here I am.”
Paulson turned 105 in September and still lives in her own home with plenty of help from neighbors, church friends and Goff, who lives in Cambridge and visits often.
“I’m being well taken care of,” Paulson said.
She successfully renewed her driver’s license in the fall, making her the fourth-oldest licensed driver in Illinois, according to the secretary of state’s office. Drivers over the age of 87 must take vision and driving exams every year to keep their license, and Paulson passed easily this year.
She first learned to drive on a farm and drove area kids to their schoolhouse in her early teen years, before she ever needed a license to do so.
Though she hasn’t been driving in recent months due to some medical issues, she keeps active with church activities and her quilting group, and still has the good vision and dexterity to complete detailed cross-stitch pieces in her spare time.
Sometimes she will ask people how old they think she is, and the response is usually 75 or 80 years old.
“That makes me feel pretty good,” Paulson said.
From her early years on the farm to raising a family and starting a career in her 40s, Paulson has always been on the go.
“I made up my mind I wasn’t going to sit around,” Paulson said. “I’ve fought all my life to go and do things.”
Paulson was born in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1914. Her mother died when Paulson was 3, and she and her older sister, Ruth, went to live with an aunt and uncle who farmed in Smithshire.
She graduated from Kirkwood High School in 1933 and married Ernest Estes in 1936 at Ponema. They raised two daughters and farmed in rural Warren County until moving to Monmouth in the 1960s.
They bought a home in Monmouth for $10,000 in 1962, and nearly 58 years later, Paulson still lives there.
Like many women of Paulson’s generation, career options were limited. She dreamed of being a nurse — calling it her “heart’s desire” — but she was always needed on the farm. When her eldest daughter graduated from high school and wanted to go to college, Paulson started looking for a job to help pay for it. She was around 40 years old at the time.
“I had never worked a job in public before,” Paulson said.
Paulson went to work as a nurse’s aide at the Monmouth hospital for about five years, then went to work for doctors in Monmouth for 30 years. She continued filling in at the doctors’ office for several years after that.
She then started working for the Monmouth Hospital Auxiliary, and was still showing up for shifts after she turned 100. Her last pin from the Auxiliary was for 5,000 hours of service.
She vividly recalls downtown Monmouth as a bustling place where there were iron posts around the square to tie up horses, and farmers gathered to socialize on the weekends, where you could buy just about anything you needed without leaving town.
A couple of weeks ago, she wore a purple blazer to church and received several compliments about it. She told them she purchased the jacket at Spurgeon’s, a downtown store that closed in 1993.
“It’s still good,” she said with a smile.
Paulson’s life has not been without heartache.
In addition to losing her mother at a young age, her eldest daughter, Patricia LeGrand, died of cancer at age 57 in 1994. A grandson, Mark Goff, died in a motorcycle crash in 2008 when he was 37. After 42 years of marriage to “the love of her life,” Ernest Estes died in 1979. She later remarried, and lost her second husband in 1992.
“I’ve had a lot of sadness in my life,” Paulson said. “I’ve relied on God a lot, and he has brought me through all of it.”
At 105, she’s the last of her generation still here. Her sister, her cousins and her classmates are all gone. Her daughter turned 80 this year.
Paulson said the highlights of her life are the birth of her two daughters, her 42-year marriage and the chance to serve the public through her jobs in the medical field.
“I’ve had a good life,” she said.