EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KTVI) – Stefina Rugal has seen a lot of the past century. She has lived through two world wars, the Spanish Flu, and now COVID-19, and she says 2020 has been the craziest year she has experienced yet.
“I think there were easier times than there is now. Now it’s a lot of fighting and it seems like disagreements and stuff like that and I don’t like that. Everything’s different and it’s strange to me,” she said.
Rugal turned 103-years-old on Monday – a woman who has shared a lot of laughs and a lot of joy. Despite these difficult times, she has found a way to stay in good spirits.
“I just think of good things, not bad things. I like my friends. I like my boyfriends,” she said. “I don’t know, I just like everybody. I’m not hateful.”
Sophie Fairman, the assistant executive director at Stillwater Senior Living, has been helping Rugal since she first moved in two years ago.
“She’s always just been my buddy. Every activity that she would come to she would always just be happy, laughing all the time. She’d get other people out there and going,” she said.
Fairman says Rugal’s smile, laughter, and how engaged she is with the people around her is inspiring. It was only right they celebrated her 103rd birthday together.
“She got a little neck pillow. She loves it. She had her cake and we sang to her. She had a good time,” Fairman said. “Oh, and we put a big sign in the courtyard that said ‘Stefina turned 103.'”
Rugal’s son, Ronald, normally flies in from California to celebrate his mother’s birthday, but since COVID-19 ruined those plans, he sent his love from afar through a sweet video.
Some of Rugal’s favorite memories are with her son and late husband, who she was married to for 63 years. Fairman says that Rugal frequently talks about the two and can tell how genuine their love was. She feels that’s one reason why she has lived such a long and happy life.
“She always talks about her husband, mostly about how he looked,” Fairman said. “She keeps pictures of him when they were younger in her room. You can tell she has just been genuinely happy and not because of material things.”
Rugal also talked about the long walks she use to take when she was younger. She said she would walk at least one mile a day to enjoy the fresh air and get her body moving.
“I think if you live a good, healthy life and be good to people, like people, be kind to people…I think that you’ll get a long good with everybody. I do,” she said.
The last bit of advice Rugal left us all with as we ended out conversation was this: stay calm, stay home, and just take it easy.