Resident Spotlight – Lillian Carter

lillian-carterLillian Carter was born on April 26, 1924 in Bronx, New York City, New York, to parents Charles and Julia Metz. Her parents were immigrants from former Austria-Hungary, and came to the United States in 1921. She had one older brother, Charles, who had moved to the US with them.

Her father had been a contractor and bricklayer in Europe, and was able to find work in New York. Her mother stayed at home to raise Lillian and her brother, and care for the household. Lillian recalls that she would follow her older brother to school, and even though he was in 3rd grade, and she was only four years old, she would always be in his classroom with him!

On October 29, 1929, turmoil struck as the stock markets tumbled, plunging the US into the Great Depression. Her father, like so many others, lost his job, and the family struggled to make ends meet. Her mother passed away the following year, and her father continued to raise her and her brother, eventually finding work. In 1941, the family relocated to Yonkers, NY, where he remarried. His ultimate successes led him to stable work on New York’s famed Fifth Avenue.

Lillian worked as a secretary stenographer, and says she still remembers most of the shorthand she used at that time! After World War II ended, the US chartered the European Recovery Plan, better known as the Marshall Plan, which sent supplies, funds, and manpower to the European nations torn apart by the war. The US government was looking for civilians to spend up to one year overseas with the Army Signal Corps, and Lillian and some friends were so thrilled the war was over, that they wanted to help in the recovery! They were assigned to a base in Frankfurt, Germany, and after the year of service was complete, Lillian states, “I ended up staying for 9 more years!” She had some close friends who were honeymooning in Vienna, Austria, and invited her to visit them and see the city. While there, Lillian was introduced to a gentleman friend of theirs, Oskar Lang, and it was “love at first sight.” He was attending the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, and the two were married.

In the late 1950s, Lillian had been in contact with a cousin of hers in Burlingame in the South Bay, who had mentioned that California was a wonderful place to live. She and her husband decided to leave Vienna, and relocate to Davis. He took a position with UC Davis’s Animal Science program, and she was hired at the campus’s computer center. When she started, they had one massive computer for the entire campus, and she had to initially manually input and keep records, and work with now-defunct IBM 1620 Data Processing Computer Systems!

Lillian and her husband Oskar had one son together, Andrew, who lives at The Sea Ranch near Gualala, CA, and is also involved in electrical and computer engineering. With Oskar’s passing, Lillian was a widower for almost a decade, when, at the age of 70, she married Bill Carter, a long-time acquaintance from Vienna. They spent five years living in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado, where Bill organized a weekly ski trip for seniors! Lillian loved staying active, so at 70 years of age, taking up skiing was a great opportunity! She and Bill eventually returned to Davis, for reasons including her husband’s extreme fondness for the annual Picnic Day festivities.

Asked about a memorable experience in her life, Lillian states that her then sister-in-law and her two young children were living in squalor in post war-torn Hungary, so Lillian hired a smuggler for $1,000 (1/3 her annual salary at the time), to go to Hungary, risk capture by the Soviet Union controlling the borders and region, and bring them to safety in Vienna. She says that she met them at the Vienna train station, flowers in hand, greeting them casually to avoid raising suspicions, and the family was safe and sound. Lillian returned to Vienna to visit the family at the age of 90, and exclaims, “the children are now in their 70s!”

Lillian took up reading non-fiction a few years ago, and is also a fan of classical music, exercising when she can, eating soup, veggies, pasta, cheese, and the coffee ice cream here at Carlton!

Describing herself as happy, loving, and that she “likes all fellow human beings,” she is also fond of a quote from Michelangelo: “I am still learning.”

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