Every weekday like clockwork, seniors arrive at the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington. There are the regulars, the characters and then there's Lillian Walker.
"The years go by and you look back and you say, 'Oh, where did they all go?'" Lillian said.
At 95, Lillian is the oldest and most loyal senior at the center. She's been helping out for about 20 years.
Reporter Joe Carroll: What does this place mean to you?
Lillian Walker: It means my life today.
Like the great majority of the people who come here, Lillian is widowed. She also lives alone. The truth is, without this place, Lillian would be very lonely.
Joe Carroll: Without this place would it be difficult? Without coming here.
Lillian Walker: Oh, I wouldn't have anything to do.
What she does do is volunteer, prepping and serving the meals. She's here Monday through Friday without fail. Today they will feed 29 people, including a group of Bhutanese refugees living in Burlington.
"This is a woman I call Bonjour," Lillian said.
Her name is actually Yvette Mason. She helps run the place.
"We speak a little French every day," Yvette said.
Growing up in Winooski, Lillian only spoke French.
"I couldn't speak English until about... well, the first year of school," she said.
She was a good student but her father wanted her to go to work in her teens.
Joe Carroll: Did you finish high school?
Lillian Walker: No I didn't... I didn't want to quit school.
Joe Carroll: You regret it a little bit?
Lillian Walker: Oh, yeah. Oh, yes.
Lillian wanted to be a nurse, but instead she worked in the woolen mills in Winooski. She met Jack. They married and had a son. When the mills closed, she started on the manufacturing lines at IBM. Lillian said she felt inferior to her co-workers for one reason: not finishing school. She retired from Big Blue at 65.
"I can't say I'm going to go and get a paying job," she said. "Who in the heck wants somebody like me hobbling around?"
The kitchen is Lillian's second home. Precisely at noon, the lunch line is open. Lillian is serving the beets.
"They are here because they enjoy one another's company and it gives them something to do," Yvette said. "And it helps them to have hope."
And for some, it is the only hot meal they will have that day.
"I like doing this, I really do," Lillian said.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Tough, old, French-Canadian woman.
Yvette Mason: Yes! Oui!
Hard work translates in any language.
"Bye, nice meeting you!" Lillian said.
PO Box 4508