Otillia “Tillie” Hein of Tampa figures she doesn’t have much time left on earth, but as long as she has breath, she aims to remain as self-sufficient and active as possible.
Walking carefully down her gravel driveway Thursday to retrieve the mail from her rural mailbox, she said, “They always tell me I should sit down, but if I just sat all the time, I pretty soon wouldn’t be able to walk at all.”
Hein will be 105 on Nov. 8. Not much has changed in her life from five years ago, when she reached the century mark. She still takes pride in her appearance, wearing a dress and high heels every day, and donning a black wig. She keeps her nails painted, and likes to wear earrings.
Hein said she has a few more aches and pains than she used to have, but medications and doctor treatments keep her feeling well. She keeps busy every day, but she doesn’t bake much anymore. She was known for her delicious kolaches.
A woman comes once a month to vacuum carpets and clean floors.
Hein relies on her grandson, Jim Srajer, and his wife, Kris, to take her grocery shopping or get what she needs and to take her other places such as doctor appointments, senior citizens meetings in Tampa, and Catholic services every week.
Hein’s farm is the headquarters for Srajer’s large farming operation. He checks on her every day.
Her children keep her supplied with food, often bringing single-serving portions that she can keep in her freezer. The Srajers also bring her fresh vegetables from their garden.
Hein said she gets up at 7:30 or 8 a.m. every day and usually eats cereal and toast for breakfast along with coffee. At lunch and dinner, she likes to include a portion of meat with her meal. She drinks a nutritious milk shake or eats Greek yogurt whenever she needs an extra boost.
She also likes desserts. She keeps cookies, cake, and ice cream on hand and sets out bowls of candy for quick snacks.
She occupies herself by watching TV (a 48-inch flat screen with satellite connection), reading (her eyesight is good), mending and altering clothes for relatives, taking care of indoor plants, picking up and spot-cleaning the kitchen floor, and washing dishes once a day. She also likes to put puzzles together.
“I’m never looking for something else to do,” she said.
She doesn’t nap but occasionally dozes while watching TV. Bedtime is at 6:30 or 7 p.m.
Hein takes delight in talking about her two Srajer great-grandsons, Grant, 17, and Cole, 14. Grant, a senior, got his great-grandmother’s car when she gave up driving last year. She likes to go to their sports events at Centre as often as possible.
Hein’s modern, ranch-style home 1½ miles north of Tampa was built in 1975. She said her family is planning to replace the carpeting in the house even though it isn’t worn out. She said the Srajers would live there after she is gone.
A year or two ago, Hein spent a short time in the hospital with an infection. She said she thought then that she might not make it. Now, she takes life one day at a time and tries to make the most of it. She said staying busy is the key.
She is looking forward to spending time with her family at a private dinner on Nov. 9 at Tampa Senior Center to celebrate her birthday. Her daughter Dolores Scott of Emporia, and son Don and his wife, Carolyn, of Omaha, along with 11 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren will join her.