CHICAGO (WLS) -- Happy birthday, Willie Mae Cook! This longtime Chicago resident celebrated her 108th birthday surrounded by friends and family on Tuesday.
Smoothing her pink dress, Cook smiled and raised her hands in delight as she posed for a photo with Alderman Pat Dowell and several relatives who flew in for the occasion hosted by her retirement home in the Bronzeville neighborhood, Pioneer Gardens.
Cook moved to Chicago when she was 18 and lived in the same home on South Bishop Street in the city's Morgan Park neighborhood for 66 years, her family said. She was active in many community groups and a member of the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church, known as the birthplace of modern gospel music. She was married twice and had one daughter, now deceased.
Cook's family shared that she was born and raised in Alabama by her grandparents, who were former slaves. They called her an "excellent family historian" who has traced their family tree and shared her family's rich history with younger generations.
In addition to good genes, her family credits her upbringing as one of the reasons she has lived such a long, healthy life. Since affordable doctors were hard to come by back then, Cook's family practiced herbal medicine.
Another secret to her longevity? Milk. Her family said she still makes sure to drink a glass with her meals - and if you forget, she'll be sure to remind you!
Chicago woman celebrates 108th birthday