ESCANABA — Bishop Noa Home Assisted Living resident Lurline (Lancour) Pepin of Escanaba turned 103 on March 26.
Lurline was the oldest girl and third-oldest child of 17 children, six of which were sets of twins.
Her brother, Tom, one of the twins, is now 87 years old. He and his wife Betsy visit Lurline several times a week and help care for her.
When Tom and his twin sister Yvonne, now deceased, were babies, their roles were reversed.
“When I was older, and my mother had babies, she had so much to do with taking care of all of the kids that sometimes she handed them to me because I was the oldest girl, and said, ‘Here — you take care of them.’ And I just loved taking care of the babies,” she smiled. “Sometimes, they called me their second mother.”
In 1941, Lurline’s mother Eva had just had her 17th child, Judy, had a son in the war and nine young children at home. Because Lurline was twenty years older than the new baby, Eva brought baby Judy to Lurline and asked her if she could care for her for a while. Lurline happily obliged, taking care of her baby sister for two months in her own home in Escanaba.
Whenever the family wanted to see the baby, they would simply drive from Osier to visit them.
“It was tough sometimes,” Lurline said, “but that was life back then. You just did what had to be done, and helped each other.”
Lurine also helped her siblings with their children, including her late sister, Phyllis Derouin, who had nine children, and her late brother Floyd, who had seven.
Tom and Betsy say Lurline’s natural role was to help care for children. They feel we all have specific roles, and theirs right now is to help care for Lurline.
“I think we’ve been appointed by God to watch over Lurline,” Betsy said. “In fact, I think everyone is appointed by God for a certain purpose; Lurline’s role throughout her life was to be a caregiver.”
Lurline was also a wife and mother herself. She was married to Wilfred Pepin in September 1940. Wilfred passed away in April 1997. The couple adopted a boy named John, who died in Vietnam in 1971.
After her husband passed away, Lurline’s sisters would help her. But most of her sisters have since passed away. Her sister Rita, who lives in Wisconsin, is her last living sister.
At 103, Lurline has a simple secret to her longevity.
“I think it’s all the oatmeal I eat,” she smiled. “I have a big bowl every morning, with a little bit of milk — and brown sugar.”
Lurline maintains a positive attitude despite living through her share of tribulations. In addition to losing her son, her husband, and 14 of her siblings, she also had heart by-pass surgery, and suffered a stroke.
She also appreciates the great care she receives at the Bishop Noa Home.
“At least one of the Sisters (Sister Marie Kim Nguyen, RN, Sister Dorothea Jang, and Sister Gloria Schultz) comes in every day to visit me here,” she said. “I like them very much.”
Lurline’s advice on living a good life is simple.
“Help each other. Back in the good old days, everybody looked after each other. Those were the days. We should get back to that,” she said.