Senior citizen honored by governor

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A typical day for senior citizen Roberta Wilson begins at 4 a.m. and doesn’t end until well after 9 p.m.

“I sit in my bed and try to figure out how I am going to get out of my house,” Wilson said.
She doesn’t allow her age to deter her from being a volunteer and contributor to the Austin community. An active member of her block club, Wilson also volunteers her time at Third Unitarian Church, food pantries and homeless shelters.


“I am 84 years old, but I am not ready to retire,” Wilson said.

Wilson was honored earlier this fall for her efforts to improve education for Austin residents by being inducted in the Illinois Senior Hall of Fame.

She was one of four seniors honored statewide in 2011. Illinois citizens 65 or older are nominated based on one of four categories: education, performance and/or graphic arts, labor force and community service. Since the creation of the Illinois Senior Hall of Fame in 1994, 83 seniors have been inducted, including Wilson.

This is not the first time Wilson has been recognized for her work. In 2004, she was inducted into the Chicago Senior Hall of Fame.

“Roberta is not one to shrink from a fight,” said Wilson’s pastor, the Rev. Brian Covell of Third Unitarian Church.

Covell said Wilson, a longtime, active member of his church, shows no signs of slowing down in her desire to advocate for community improvement and education.

Wilson, the oldest of four children, didn’t have the opportunity to pursue an education growing up and has made it her life mission to help others improve themselves academically.

In 1974, Wilson, along with six other Third Unitarian church members, helped create the Third Unitarian scholarship fund for high school seniors.

All year long, Wilson helps raise funds for the scholarship by word of mouth, pancake breakfasts and luncheons at the church. This past year, 15 students received $1,000 each. (See AustinTalks’ story earlier this year about the annual event.)

Wilson credits her father, a World War I veteran, who always sought opportunities to help other veterans; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who taught her the importance of helping others without regard to skin color; and her great aunt, who always ensured that Wilson and her eight siblings had plenty of winter clothes, for instilling in her the importance of volunteerism.

“Stay strong. Work with your community. Don’t stay in the house, even if you’re 84 years old. Go out and help somebody,” Wilson said.

“If you help somebody, then you life was not in vain.”

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