Hannah Becker of Grayslake looks back on her life as a “hard, but happy one.”
With a warm smile and an easy laugh, her eyes show the happiness filling her heart.
“We are a strong family, in good times and in bad. God was always good to us.”
On May 28, Becker will turn 100 years old.
Becker was surrounded by her four children, nine grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, six great- great- grandchildren and dozens of friends at a party at Sunday where they celebrated her 100 years a week early.
"To see everyone is just so nice,” Becker said. "I'm so thankful for everyone who came and all their love and all their laughter."
That love and laughter are the secrets to her longevity, she said.
“I have such a good family and we’re always laughing. They keep me going, really.”
Going is an understatement.
Becker runs errands with her grandchildren, makes Sunday breakfast for her son and his family every week, cooks most meals for herself, and is a 60-year member of St. Andrew's.
She also has a weekly standing appointment with her hairdresser and sister, 92-year-old Margaret Radke of Grayslake.
Becker's family is amazed she is so physically and mentally fit.
“She’s in her right mind. It’s amazing really,” said 65-year old son Ted Becker of Lindenhurst.
"She's incredible," adds daughter Barbara Cote, 74. "I can't even think about getting to 100."
“She’s the oldest one in her building, yet she doesn’t hang out with the ‘old people,’” laughed 77-year-old daughter Shirley Gould. “She hangs out with the young crowd.”
That young crowd is also how she received her nickname 'Nana'. Becker said she loves being surrounded by children, and served as a nanny over the years.
She finds a connection with nearly every family member and friend who crosses her path.
“She always had cinnamon toast and cookies and a cup of tea waiting for you when you went to her house,” recalls 56-year-old Louise Wickersheim, Becker’s oldest grandchild. “No matter how broke or busy she was, she was there for you.”
“She just has so much love to give, even still, and she always has time for everyone,” Wickersheim said.
Finding a Home in Grayslake
Becker landed in Grayslake looking for work in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. In the following years her six siblings migrated from Minnesota, eventually getting her parents to move as well.
Becker worked odd jobs around town, in the factories, cleaning houses and as a nanny. She retired as a custodian at in 1972.
“We did anything, really.” Becker recalls about looking for work. “We were poor but in this town there was work for anybody.”
Becker married Ted Becker in 1934 and they purchased a home just across from the high school for $4,000.
She lived there until 1986 when she moved to Hawley Manor, where she was the first resident to occupy the building.
“I’ve seen this town change so much, stores come and go,” Becker said. “But the buildings mostly stay the same.”
Becker recalls sitting in the beer garden outside what is now in downtown Grayslake in 1933 with three of her siblings.
“We would go there and get a drink for a nickel," she said. "We didn’t have much money, but everyone made it work.”