CALEDONIA, Mich. — At a small nursing home in Caledonia on an unusually snowy day in March, a born-and-raised West Michigan woman celebrates a life well-lived surrounded by generations of her loving family.
"It's just wonderful to have have them be with me here," said Jeanette Heimbecker.
Heimbecker turns 106 years old today.
She’s just missing the company of one granddaughter, who’s sick with the flu.
“She didn't want me to catch anything like that. She wants me to keep on living," laughed Heimbecker.
She fills her days crocheting, reading, and, of course, singing.
“I like to sing but I'm not a very good singer," she smiled.
She celebrated her birthday morning the same way she always does — making special birthday pancakes with her granddaughter on the same griddle Heimbecker's mother and her mother’s mother used before.
“I was so full, I could only eat one pancake. But it was delicious. And a blessing memory to remember, that me and my birthday," she said.
Heimbecker thinks she’s got the secret to making it into the hundreds all figured out — and it’s likely nothing you’ve heard before.
“Well, they kid about that because I like onions," she laughed. "Maybe it's because I ate so many onions.”
She says she grew up eating green onions straight from her garden — but that habit hasn’t changed.
Her family says one of her favorite meals is an onion sandwich, just bread, butter and onions.
She says it’s a tradition she doesn’t plan on giving up on her 106th year.
“I had ancestors that lived to be quite old," explained Heimbecker.
On this birthday, she reminisces on her favorite memories of the 106 years passed.
“Way back years ago, when we had a birthday, my mom always made a birthday cake. And on our birthday, we got the second piece of cake. Well, I've eaten a lot of other food and I got sick because I ate the second piece of cake, regardless," she laughed.
Heimbecker has no specific plans to stay till 110.
“I'm ready to go when the Lord is ready for me," she said.
Though, she knows her 106 years have been special.
“I hope the Lord is satisfied with what I can do. I'm sure that he has kept me alive for some period or from purpose," Heimbecker said.
She tells her family a lot has changed in the world in her lifetime, but one thing always remains the same — she finds kind people everywhere she goes.
"I hope I can do what the Lord has plans for me to do. I try to be a good helper. I love all my neighbors, they’re so good to me," she said.
This year, she may find room for that second piece of cake again.
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