Church, gambling, baking; Beloved Chicago woman’s 108 years celebrated at funeral mass

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Chicago's very own Naomi Wilson recently passed away, but Saturday, her family and friends threw a big celebration in her honor.

To measure Mrs. Wilson’s life in length, it was exceptional. She died on the first day of a year that would have brought her 109th birthday.

“The idea of living until 108 is absolutely incredible,” said Judy Solomon Rush, St. Dorothy Church member.

Mrs. Wilson’s funeral mass this morning was celebrated at St. Dorothy’s Catholic Church. It marked its 100th parish anniversary recently, but Mrs. Wilson still had years on her faith community.

“She had so much love. I think that’s what her world was, the love she had for everybody, including me,” said Pauline Gonzalez.

But it wasn’t just her age that was extraordinary.

It was the life she put in those days- almost 40,000 of them in total. On New Year’s Eve, she went to sleep in her own bed in her own home and didn’t wake up.

“My grandmother was my everything. Whatever I could do to make sure she had the best quality of life I could provide for her, I would do it,” said Linda Smith.

Mrs. Wilson was married to Linda’s grandfather for 60 plus years. While taking joy in watching four generations follow hers, she still had love to share for a special weekly visitor.

“A gentleman caller if you want to say. An old friend from old times,” explains Dee Dee Borum, St. Dorothy Church member.

When she could no longer drive to church, a minister of care came weekly, too. But really, they ministered to each other.

“I brought communion, Christ to her. But just her spirit, she lifted me up and brought Christ to me,” said Deborah Obaseki, Eucharistic minister

She was known for her baking and for enjoying a regular sip of the key ingredient in her famous rum cake. Mrs. Wilson ran a monthly poker game, but she was also well known at the casinos, where she taught her great granddaughter Jennifer Williams to gamble.

“She played the slots. She loved the quarters, but she would play the dollars,” she said.

She was also one savvy senior.

“We were chatting and talking, and she fumbled in her purse and pulled out an IPhone,
said Rev. Bob Miller, Pastor, St. Dorothy Church. “She said ‘Father Bob, I want to take a selfie with you.’”

He’ll cherish that photo, as so many will her example.

“She lived her life all the way to the end. And that’s a beautiful thing,” said Richard Cochran, St. Dorothy Church member.


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