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Dream adventure comes true for 102-year-old

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Updated: May 10, 2014 6:28AM



MERRILLVILLE — Sharply dressed in a grey pantsuit with a matching scarf and sporting freshly painted bright red fingernails, 102-year-old Willie Tillman anxiously awaited a bus ride to Chicago Tuesday morning, where she would soon fulfill one of her dream adventures.

“I’m going to the tower,” she said with a big smile.

That would be the Willis Tower, where Willie would take the elevator to the top to get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the Skydeck.

“I’m going to say my prayers and go on up. I’m going to leave it in the hands of the Lord,” Willie said, chuckling.

The daughter of sharecroppers, Willie said she’s been in an airplane and up high in the John Hancock Center, but she always wondered what it would be like to be at the top of what used to be called the Sears Tower.

“I hope I don’t fly away,” she said with a laugh.

Her dream was fulfilled by the Golden LivingCenter in Merrillville, where Willie has resided for the past three years, under its new Dream Catcher program.

“We try to fulfill residents’ dreams,” said Stacey Hinko, activities director at Golden LivingCenter. “Willie’s was the perfect first dream to fulfill.”

Hinko said Willie not only received a red carpet send-off at the center, but had a red carpet welcome at the Willis Tower as well. She was accompanied by three family members and several staff members from Golden Living, including Hinko, a nurse and a certified nurse assistant.

Willie and her late husband, Preston Tillman, moved to Gary to support the war. They worked at U.S. Steel, Willie until retirement. After her husband died in 1957, she did volunteer work with her church.

Through it all, Willie had a sense of adventure.

“I did so many little exciting things, like going fishing in boats. That’s exciting, too,” she said.

There’s one other adventure she almost tried.

“I used to want to jump out of an airplane, but I got sick while practicing and couldn’t go on the day I was supposed to sky-dive,” she said. “I’d still like to try it.”

Perhaps that will be another Dream Catcher.



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