With showtunes playing and a zebra print and pink fur trimmed balloon that read “another year of fabulous” floating behind her, Santa Clarita resident Claire McWilliams celebrated her 106th birthday on Thursday.
Surrounded by friends and family, the Southern California native smiled as she dined on a full Thanksgiving feast in the dining room at Canterbury Village in Newhall, where she has lived for several decades.
One of the 106-year-old’s two adult sons, Mick McWilliams, came down from Washington to share his mother’s big day with her.
“We get together every year to celebrate another year of life,” he said. “She’s got a zest for life.”
McWilliams has been known to her loved ones as faithful and rock-steady, her son said.
As a single mother, she served as her sons’ personal cheerleader, always supporting them in their academics, extra-curricular activities and their faith.
Noted by many for her focus on wellness, McWilliams holds her master’s degree in public health and served as a nurse for burn victims after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Her combined toughness and tenderness has led her son to describe her as half Indiana Jones and half Mother Teresa.
Close friend and former priest at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Lynn Jay speaks highly of the 106-year-old’s feistiness.
She recalls a story McWilliams told her where she was in San Joaquin during the Dust Bowl era and was trying to make her way past troops and ordered them out of her way.
“You don’t cross Claire,” Jay said.
Also highlighting her loving nature, her friends said McWilliams is incredibly accepting of people of diverse backgrounds.
“I fell in love with her cute personality,” friend Deanna Gannon said. “She’s just a special lady.”
McWilliams keeps as active as she can, according to her caretaker of a decade Lupita Colmenares.
Every morning, McWilliams reads the newspaper. When the weather permits, she spends time outside and especially likes seeing dogs and babies when she goes on walks in her wheelchair.
Other than some minor issues that come with her advanced age, Colmenares said McWilliams has no health problems at all.
“That’s the secret,” Colmenares said. “She has a good appetite, a good attitude and she believes in God.”