Lillian Paikin is not your average grandmother.
Born in 1916, she lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, 9/11 and countless other historical events. She is also still in the workforce and has no plans to retire.
She turns 104 on July 14 and has worked as a bookkeeper at Frank Paikin Auto in Glenside since 1978.
She started working for her son, Franklin Paikin, that year. When he died in 2003, his son, Scott Paikin, took over the dealership and she stayed on to work for him.
“She takes care of the checkbook for the business and she also does inventory,” Scott Paikin said. “She does all the bookkeeping and filing work and sends all the information to the state.”
He said she also keeps all business records, including receipts for every car they have ever sold.
“She’s great, she does all the paperwork and never complains, my grandmother. She always gets everything down to the last detail,” he said.
Before she worked for Frank Paikin Auto, Lillian Paikin was a bookkeeper at Fleet Leasings in North Philadelphia, and held various jobs when she was a teenager growing up in Olney.
“I started work when I was 15, and have really been working ever since. I worked at Woolworth’s five-and-dime. I was selling ice cream sandwiches on a waffle,” she said.
When she was 21, she worked at an entertainment company booking talent for $7 a week.
“She’s from an age where people really took pride in their work. Nobody else has that ethic like she does anymore. She won’t go out to dinner with her girlfriend if she knows she has paperwork to do,” Scott Paikin said.
He said she has not shown any interest in stopping her part-time work.
“Honestly, I believe that the paperwork and feeling that she’s needed is what’s keeping her going,” he said.
She agreed: “It’s very interesting and it keeps me busy.”
She has been working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, continuing to balance checkbooks and file paperwork from her Jenkintown apartment. Her family members, who refer to her affectionately as “Mama Lily,” drop off groceries so she does not have to go out for food.
They worried about her being bored during the pandemic, but she assured them she feels fine.
“I’m not bored. I just go along with whatever occurs and I don’t worry. I don’t worry about anything, because what you worry about may never occur, so what’s the use in worrying about it?” she said.
She lives independently and is the oldest person in her building.
“Everyone knows her,” said her granddaughter, Jill Stein. “She plays bingo and rummikub with her friends in the social room, but hasn’t been able to recently because of COVID.”
Scott Paikin said his grandmother has no enemies.
“Everyone who meets my grandmother loves her because she’s very honest and very true,” he said.
When she is not working or socializing in her building, Lillian Paikin likes getting manicures and pedicures, getting her hair done, visiting casinos in King of Prussia and shopping at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
She also loves spending time with her family and enjoys cooking matzah ball soup, gefilte fish and latkes for the holidays.
“She’s always the center of all of our family holidays. We celebrate everything together as a family, we’re all very close,” said her daughter-in-law, Tina Goodman.
Stein calls Mama Lily every day.
“I’m extremely close with my grandmother. She has never been anything other than pure, loving and special to me beyond words,”she said.
Scott Paikin has also been close with his grandmother all his life.
“She was practically a mother to me as I was growing up,” he said.
Lillian Paikin is also close with her great-grandchildren, Samantha and Dane Stein and Dylan, Blake and Aiden Paikin.
Her family members said she is in good health and does not take any medications.
“She only uses eye drops, not even Tylenol,” Stein said.
She claims she doesn’t know the secret to looking and feeling younger than her years.
“I wish I knew. I would tell everyone, because everyone asks me that question. Maybe someday I’ll find out,” she said.
Her grandchildren have their own theories. Scott Paikin suspects it may be her preference for drinking boiled tap water.
“I think it’s the Raisin Bran,” Stein said.
She may not know the secrets of her own good health, but she has some words of wisdom for people who are struggling to cope with the stress of current events.
“There’s always a tomorrow, and you never know what tomorrow will bring,” she said.