Lillian Wilson: Laughter through the years

By Amanda Duchsherer
Digital Communications Specialist

MINOT, N.D. – Even during the Great Depression, Lillian Wilson found humor in the everyday. When it was time to choose a quote for her college yearbook, she knew exactly what to write down.

“Common sense is not a common thing.”

Wilson crossed the stage to receive her diploma in 1936, receiving a Bachelor of Art in history and social science. At 109 years old, specifics from her years at college are getting harder to remember.

“My forgetter gets better and better,” she laughs.

At the time of her graduation, Minot State was known as The State Teachers College and George McFarland, the second president in the University’s history, was 14 years into his 16-year term.

Wilson’s time at the college wasn’t only spent on academic pursuits. She was also involved in the Y.W.C.A., Vestalians, League of Women Voters, and the Philosophy Club.

The Y.W.C.A.’s primary purpose, promoting the religious life of the women at college, was important to Wilson.

“I maintain I’ve done everything around the church, except mow the lawn and sing in the choir,” she said in a 1985 interview with the Minot Commission on the Status of Women. “I’ll tell you; I owe a lot to the church in a way.”

Wilson was born on a farm north of Minot on Nov. 24, 1909 and lived there until her father passed away in 1918. She moved to Aneta with her mother and two brothers for seven years before another move landed the family in Minot.

“I remember that I lived on a farm in Ward County and I also lived on one in Stutsman County,” she said.

Once settled in Minot, Wilson enrolled at Minot High School as student number 777. After finishing high school, she immediately enrolled in summer school so she could get her standard for teaching. After five years in front of the classroom, she decided to pursue a college education.

“By that time, I had saved $60 and I borrowed $50 from my life insurance,” she said in her Status of Women interview.

That $110 and another $60 borrowed from her brother was enough to obtain her degree.

Wilson created a life around education, receiving a master’s degree in library science from a university in Colorado and becoming a librarian, including a stint at her Alma Mater – Minot State.

Although she always had a job, living through the depression and two world wars made an impression on her saving habits.

“She used to save half her paychecks, putting it into savings,” Shelly Swearson, Trinity Homes director of social services, said. “She’s the second oldest, there is a 114-year-old still living, in nursing homes in the state.”

At Trinity Homes, Wilson is known for her quick wit and humor.

“In March, she always says, ‘Are we still marching?’ and whenever we have ice cream she’ll say, ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream,’” said Alexia Carson, Trinity Homes CNA.

True to form, she issued a challenge about her age.

“You probably can’t count that far.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 07/17/19   

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