You may have met Lillian during our Friends on the Harbor gala in 2021 during our special video messages from the CitySites participants at Farnsworth House in Jamaica Plain. She has been joining our programs there for the past few years. Last winter she worked with our student volunteer, Gabi, to write her memoir and has graciously offered to share her story with you, her LBFE Family.
Lillian was born in 1928 in Lumberton, North Carolina. Her mother was a Croatan Indian and member of the Lumbee Tribe. Her family eventually moved North and settled in the South End. Lillian described herself as a rebellious child often getting into trouble for acting out in class. Fortunately, her second-grade teacher discovered that rather than having behavioral issues, Lillian could not hear. She was enrolled in the Deaf School in Boston where she learned how to read people’s lips and mannerisms, building confidence in herself.
Into her teen years Lillian found herself married at age 15 and having three kids by age 18. She soon divorced and raised her three children on her own. As a single parent she describes herself as a “hustler” and was always working to have food on the table for her kids. Eventually, she began working at the technology company Teradyne where she led her group in making circuit boards for over 30 years. On top of raising her three children, Lillian also went to night school to earn her GED.
Years later, Lillian met the love of her life: Jimmy. They frequented the dance hall at Revere Beach to listen to jazz and dance until sunrise. Not long after they were married. Jimmy stepped right in to raise the children together. Lillian shared “I only ever really loved him and I’m okay not ever finding love again because I loved Jimmy so much. I might even give him another chance if I get to meet him in heaven again someday.”
Today, Lillian describes herself as “a very happy old lady” and “a happy and free spirit.” She believes “Life is a gift not a problem to be solved.” On a difficult day she suggests “Look in the mirror, smile and say hello you beautiful being of life and happy soul, you better know who the VIP is.” Lillian’s optimism is a breath of fresh air, she shared “I’ve had such a marvelous life. Life is a gift, you just have to learn how to live it, all my years have been wonderful because I didn’t know how not to enjoy life.”
Thank you to Lillian for sharing her story and to Gabi for capturing it so beautifully. This short letter is a condensed version of the story written with Gabi. The photo was taken from the day Gabi presented Lillian with her finished memoir.