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Alice Gillis, a resident of Edelweiss Village for the past two years, celebrated her 103rd birthday. To help her commemorate the day, we invited The Boston Globe!

West Roxbury woman celebrates 103rd birthday

By Charlie McKenna Globe Correspondent,

West Roxbury, MA 4/2/2021 Alice Gillis, an assisted living resident at Edelweiss Village, turned 103 today. Executive Director Kathy Labbe gave her a bunch of flowers during a small celebration. Gillis is the oldest resident at Edelweiss Village.

Alice Gillis, a West Roxbury resident who celebrated her 103rd birthday Friday, described herself as “very fortunate” to have lived as long as she has.

Gillis, who lives in Edelweiss Village, an assisted living facility, joked that the staff there “keep me so busy” with card games, “Wheel of Fortune” viewings, and bingo games. She worked as an administrative assistant in the department of anesthesiology at what was then the Boston City Hospital for 33 years before retiring in 1978 — along with her two “wonderful” bosses. Gillis never married or had children but has lost count of all of her extended family members whom she adores.

“I have a beautiful family consisted of nieces, grandnieces and nephews, great-grand nieces and nephews, and great-great grand-nephew,” she said in a telephone interview just before a socially distanced birthday party at the village. “I’ve kind of lost count of them but as far as I know there’s about 75 so far.”

In her younger years, Gillis traveled the world — visiting Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, and other states within the U.S. including Hawaii. Her favorite? Australia.

“Australia was my favorite country to visit, because the climate and the friends that we met there, and all the activities that we did there in a period of two weeks, I’ll always remember,” she said.

Gillis is an adept technology user — and asked Edelweiss Executive Director Kathy Labbe about the wi-fi when she first arrived. She credited her niece Kathleen with “training her.”

“I do e-mail, I do FaceTime, I do text message and I have my iPad, and incidentally I subscribe to the electronic Boston Globe!” she said.

“I didn’t see your name in it, though,” she quipped.

Gillis said she was excited about the birthday party and “couldn’t wait” to see who would be in attendance.

“Not every member of my family can be here because they’d fill the place,” she said. “I had a birthday party when I was 100 and a few of my friends, like 65, came.”

At 103, Gillis said each day “is a bonus” but she’s looking forward to 104 — partly because she aims to beat her sister’s record of 105. Gillis lived with her sister for 94 years and said she was “lucky” to have been able to spend that much time with her.

Getting old has meant Gillis has had to see many people she loves pass away, which she said has been difficult.

“I regret that a lot of my friends and people that I know and loved are no longer here,” she said. “And so I was just thinking the other day, how many friends and how many people I knew that I can only name, very, very few who are still here and I’ve kind of lost touch with them.”

Despite the losses, Gillis has been able to make new friends — including fellow residents and the staff at Edelweiss.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends since. I’ve met a lot of friends here, and a lot of people through my nieces and nephews, now,” she said. “The residents and the staff here have all become new friends.”

Labbe said Gillis is “indescribable” and an “inspiration”.

“She’s got an amazing sense of humor, she joins in on everything, she’s just she’s just amazing,” Labbe said. “We’re very happy to have her here. She’s getting lots of phone calls, we’re gonna have to get her another apartment for all of her flowers and all of her cards.”

Photo credit: West Roxbury, MA 4/2/2021 Alice Gillis, an assisted living resident at Edelweiss Village, turned 103 today. Executive Director Kathy Labbe gave her a bunch of flowers during a small celebration. Gillis is the oldest resident at Edelweiss Village. SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

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