Three years into her second century

Review story and photos by Emmitt B. Feldner

Lillian Goethke was toasted on her birthday Tuesday with Dixie Cups filled with Oreo cookies.

The reason? All three were born the same year, 1912.

Goethke celebrated her 103rd birthday with several dozen friends, family and former colleagues at Lake Street Cafe, just a few blocks from her Chicago Street home.

Dave Magar, former superintendent of the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School District where Goethke worked for 30 years managing the food service program, noted the link between Goethke and the two iconic American products.

“She still lives at home and she still does seamstress work,” Magar said of the guest of honor, who beamed brightly as all present toasted her.

Goethke was born and raised in the town of Rhine, but noted that, after high school, she went to Chicago where she worked as a housekeeper and cook for a local doctor.

But she admitted she spent many days at the movies, including one memorable day in 1934.

“I was in the movie house one day and came back home and the doctor was there,” Goethke reminisced. “He said, ‘What did you do today?’ and I said I went to the movies. He said ‘They just raided that place and shot a guy right outside the door.’ I was inside and didn’t even hear it.”

The theater was the Biograph, and the victim was notorious bank robber John Dillinger, shot dead by FBI agents waiting for him outside the theater as he left after watching the movie “Manhattan Melodrama.”

She came back to Elkhart Lake around 1940 when she married Oswald Goethke.

“I had a boyfriend here and he came to visit all the time,” she related. “Finally, when I was ready to make the move, he came up and we were married in Chicago.

“He had a place in Elkhart Lake,” and that was where they raised their two sons.

Both her husband and one son have passed away, but Lillian Goethke is still going strong.

“I’m still working today,” she asserted proudly. “I like to sew and do alterations for people. I have a lot of fun doing it. I have a lot of friends and there isn’t a day that I don’t have someone in my house.”

As far as any secret to her longevity, Lillian doesn’t really have one except, “Just do what you like to do.” And keep busy, she’s asked.

“Yep. The only time I’m not busy is when I find a good book.”

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