Louise Paquet celebrates 103rd birthday
When Louise Paquet was born, Howard Taft was president and the Titanic had yet to crash into an iceberg.
And while both the president and the tragedy have faded into the past, Paquet is still making history with the celebration of a milestone birthday – her 103rd.
Many of Paquet’s close friends and five generations of family members jammed into the community room at the Windsor assisted living facility for a party that featured cake, ice cream and a little Louise trivia.
Paquet credits staying away from vices as the secret to her longevity.
“I never smoked. That had something to do with it, and I was never drunk,” Paquet said before her granddaughter, Gail Barbone said she’s enjoyed a shot or two on Christmas Eve.
“I’ve led a very simple life. I don’t even know how to drive a car,” Paquet said.
Paquet was born in Belgium, near the border of Holland on Jan. 30, 1912, where she had to endure World War I.
“My parents went to World War I. I remember I was walking and my mom told me if I saw a German soldier on the sidewalk, get off the sidewalk so I wouldn’t get in trouble,” Paquet said.
Paquet came to America with her family in 1924 and although she got off to a shaky start (her ship got stuck in a sandbar as it arrived), she found her place, first going to school to learn English, then getting a job as a lampshade designer.
Around that time she met her husband, Leopold, a college-educated immigrant from Belgium whom she married in 1930 and was wedded to until his death in 1982. They had one child, Henrietta Ruck, who was there to celebrate.
“I got pregnant right away and after that I never did it again,” Paquet said. “My husband spoke German, French and Flemmish.”
Paquet moved to Cape Coral nine years ago with many members of her family and was moved to Windsor Manor shortly after it opened.
Ruck, 83 and living in Cape Coral, finds it amazing she can still be with her mother.
“People tell me that because they don’t have their mother. I’m used to it,” Ruck said. “I spend as much time as possible with her, which is why we put her here, to keep her close. I bring her whatever she needs and take care of her bills.”
“It doesn’t seem that amazing to us because longevity runs in the family and we’re used to long lives,” Barbone said.
It does seem amazing to Addison Apicella, 7, great-great-granddaughter to Paquet, who gets to see her for holidays and other occasions such as this along with her dad, Michael.
“I think it’s wonderful. It tells me I have to start taking care of myself. She’s totally with it. It’s amazing she’s doing better than us,” Michael said. “She’ll probably live to 120. It has to be the Dannon Yogurt along with not smoking.”
Those perhaps not so amazed are her neighbors, one of whom will turn 100 next month. With a packed house, you can imagine how popular she is.
“She’s so nice. She always calls me by name and I can’t say enough about how she treats people,” said Ruth Shuter, 93, an original resident of the five-year-old facility. “I can’t take a step without my walker. She can put her walker in the corner and walks across the room for a seat.”
Miriam Mihalov said she loves to talk and whenever there’s an activity, Miriam is sure to be there.
“She wanted to play bingo, she wants to do everything and we really enjoy her company and loves to talk about Belgium and how the American troops came in and liberated them,” Mihalov said. “She’s just so wonderful.”