100 years is about love, determination

NEWPORT BEACH — It's a new year in more ways than one for Laura Wilkening, who is celebrating her 100th birthday Sunday.

The Chicago-born centenarian will celebrate with 40 long-time friends and family at her daughter-in-law's house in Newport Beach.

But Wilkening has no need for New Year's or birthday resolutions.

"I make a resolution every day," said Wilkening, who lives on the Balboa Peninsula. "I'm a determined person. If I'm going to do something, I do it — and that's it."

Maybe that explains how the talkative, upbeat grandmother of five has lived to see so many birthdays.

When Wilkening suffered a stroke in 2005 and was no longer able to practice yoga — something she had done almost daily for 35 years — she would accept nothing less than full recovery for herself.

She now does water aerobics twice a week and exercises at home at least 45 minutes a day. On top of that, she maintains a healthy diet of fresh greens, fruits and lean meat, she said.

While Wilkening uses a walker for support, she doesn't take any medications, just vitamins.

And there's no slowing down yet, she said.

"As long as I'm able to walk, I want to keep living," Wilkening said.

She's had her share of adventures, including globe-trotting to China, Japan, Cambodia and other countries. She was present at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and stomped grapes in her own vineyard, Byron Winery, from 1985 to 1995, when she sold it to Robert Mondavi Wines.

"The thing that she puts out most is love for everyone and love for humanity," said Sally Westcott, who married Wilkening's son Clark Westcott in 1959. "She's soft and kind, and she's taught me so much just by observing her."

So, what kind of lesson does Wilkening find most important after 100 years of "Auld Lang Syne?"

"Give love to people," Wilkening said. "Everybody is hungry for love. If you give love to others, then they will give it back to you. But, you don't do it for that reason, of course. You just do it."


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