Heritage Estates Resident Reflects on 103 Years

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Heritage Estates Resident Gwen Hallstrom, 103, was born on December 21, 1915. Her life has taken her all over the world, and she has witnessed history firsthand. Living a life filled with purpose, service, and fun, Gwen is an inspiration to all of us at Heritage Estates.

An Eyewitness to World History

Gwen grew up with six sisters on the east coast of South America, just north of the equator and the Amazon River in what was then known as British Guiana. Her life has brought her a front row seat to many of the world’s most significant historical events.

In 1915, the year of her birth, Woodrow Wilson was two years into his first Presidential term, and just two years away from leading the United States into World War I. Babe Ruth hit his first career home run, and San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, celebrating its recovery from the 1906 earthquake.

She has seen firsthand the growth of radio, movies, and television. She is a survivor of the 1918 influenza epidemic that killed up to 100 million people, one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. She has seen women receive the right to vote, the rise and fall of Prohibition, lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. She witnessed the Civil Rights movement, remembers where she was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and watched the towers fall during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A Life of Purpose

Through it all, she has formed her life around her philosophy of enjoying life to its fullest by doing the things she likes to do. Gwen certainly lives a whole and purposeful life, doing the things she likes to do while serving others.

All of her sisters emigrated from British Guiana to England, Canada, and the United States. Gwen and her husband came to the U.S. separately in 1942. She came on a visitor’s visa sponsored by her uncle in New York. A few years later she became a United States citizen. Her husband joined the military and became a citizen in about three months.

Gwen’s travels have taken her all over the world including England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Ireland. While her husband was fighting in World War II, Gwen took classes at Columbia University, an Ivy League college in Manhattan. After the war, Gwen and her husband moved to Los Angeles and then to Oxnard in Southern California where her husband worked in the growing computer industry.

Gwen has been a resident of Heritage Estates since 2007. An avid reader, she goes to the library every other week. She prefers suspense novels and historical fiction and keeps a list of the books that she has read on her iPad. Gwen learned about the importance of exercise in good health by reading a book called, ‘Aging Backwards.’ She has been active her whole life, hiking and square dancing. Gwen also loves 300-500 piece jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku puzzles and Free Cell Solitaire on the computer.

Gwen volunteers every Thursday night at the Food Locker a St. Michael’s Church. She also occasionally volunteers at Valley Care, where she has volunteered for over twenty years! In fact, she celebrated her 103rd birthday with her Valley Care volunteer friends. They took her out for lunch at the Senior Center and brought her a big birthday cake!  She also had a luncheon celebration with her daughter.

We are so thankful for Gwen and her contributions to the Livermore community as well as the Heritage Estates independent living and assisted living community! We’d love for you to join us for lunch or dinner and to meet our amazing residents!

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About the author

Alissa has been working in marketing and the senior living industry for over 8 years. With a B.S. in advertising from the University of Illinois, Alissa has worked all over the world as a freelance communications strategist and writer. Published in Forbes, Senior Finance Advisor, Alzheimers.net and on other leading senior care blogs, she leverages her working knowledge of the senior care industry with leading research and best practices to create engaging content benefitting seniors and their caregivers. In her free time, Alissa loves to travel, read, cook, and spend time with her family.