Being 101 years old didn’t stop Lillian Jilk from joining the American Legion two years ago.
And being 103 didn’t stop her from being present and smiling, when Legion Post 21 honored her for her two years as a continuous member and presented her with a lifetime membership and a Certificate of Honor in recognition of her World War II service.
Jilk was one of two centenarian women that the post honored Monday morning at the Casa del Mare Assisted Living and Memory Care facility on Kenosha’s north side.
Florence Klappa, 102, received a certificate and pin in honor of her 50 years of continuous membership of the American Legion Auxiliary.
“We just wanted to thank you for your service and everything you’ve done,” said Post 21 Commander Matt Christensen, during a brief ceremony complete with cake and well wishes from American Legion members and some of the ladies’ Casa del Mare neighbors.
At 103, Jilk is Post 21’s oldest current member. A native of Minnesota and now a longtime resident of Kenosha, she joined the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in 1942.
Stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes and later at a boot camp in Idaho and the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., she recalls treating sailors’ shrapnel wounds and other maladies.
“It was a good experience,” she said.
During Monday’s event, Kenosha County Veterans Services Director Ali Nelson saluted Jilk for her service.
“That was a pivotal time in our history,” Nelson said. “Because without World War II veterans, we likely wouldn’t even have a country today.”
Sitting beside Jilk, Klappa wore a pin on her sweater — a spent 50-caliber machine gun shell that her late husband, Roger, created during his World War II service as a B-29 mechanic. Earlier this year, Klappa had the opportunity to see the plane her husband serviced when it was part of a traveling tour of World War II aircraft that made a stop at the Kenosha Regional Airport.
Despite becoming a widow in 1980, Klappa remained a consistent member of the American Legion Auxiliary post in Stevens Point, where she and her husband lived before moving to Kenosha in 1958.
“I’m more of a backseat person,” Klappa said, of her honors Monday morning.
On being 102, she said, “I feel good — it’s just my bones that don’t cooperate.”