Chicago resident celebrates 107th birthday, shares secret to long, healthy life: ‘She’s a legend’

The secret to turning 107? Eating healthy and staying active.

At least, it’s worked for Francisca “Paquita” Morales, who celebrated her 107th birthday on Friday surrounded by family and friends.

Morales was born June 6, 1917, but says she doesn’t feel a day older than 15.

She was raised alongside eight siblings on a farm in Palos Blancos, a neighborhood in Corozal, Puerto Rico. There, Paquita spent her childhood and the better part of her adult years growing and harvesting coffee and bananas to sell at the local market.

At that same farm, she also raised her five children.

Morales credited her long life to good food, exercise and waking up grateful for the blessings in her life.

“I’ve got some pains here and there but I feel so happy and blessed,” she said. “I’m grateful to God because He’s helped me wake up every day, a day older.”

Morales moved to Chicago in 1970 and settled with her children in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, where she still lives.

For several years she worked at a factory, packing olives, but once her grandchildren were born, she retired and helped raise them while her children worked.

“Chicago is my home,” she said.

Maria Vazquez, at age 70 the second-youngest daughter, said she’ll always be grateful for everything her mother has done for her and her family.

“I’m grateful to have been given a mother like her. She’s always been a fighter and a hard worker,” Vazquez said. “She worked hard on the farm to provide for us. She’s a woman of faith and I’m proud to have a mother like her. She’s a legend.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson sent a letter congratulating her, and Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26th) was among the two dozen or so gathered to celebrate.

“Paquita brings joy to her family and her friends,” Fuentes said. “A few months ago I spent time with her, learning about her life. Those 45 minutes were some of the happiest of my life.”

Some Joining in were plenty of family and friends, some of whom traveled from out of state.

“I was here for her 100th birthday and now for her 107th. I can’t believe it,” said great-grandson Christopher Pimentel, 27, who flew to Chicago from Puerto Rico. (Pimentel is among 40 great-grandchildren, along with 13 grandchildren).

Morales shared laughs and even showcased her dance moves to the music played by a band before blowing out the candles on her pink-frosted cake.

Morales thanked everyone for coming to her party and said she hopes others will take her advice and remember to always live life with joy.

“I hope to be an example to my family — to always be happy and make others feel happy too,” she said.

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