Jeff Vorva Times correspondent
The Smith Crossing Senior Living Community in Orland Park needed a lot of birthday candles as two residents turned 100 in March.
Helen Heffron hit triple digits March 7, and Robert Vorel turned 100 on March 23.
Anytime anyone turns 100 one of the questions asked is what’s the secret of living to 100.
“Everybody asks me that — it never fails,” Vorel said.
“My stock answer is there is no secret,” he said. “But genes, for example, helped me. My dad lived until he was 97.
“Also, try to be active both physically and mentally. Always do a lot of reading.”
Heffron credits her longevity to her faith in God and her supportive family.
She has had fun living in Michigan; Marco Island, Fla.; and Orland Park. She is into solving crossword puzzles, reading and writing poetry.
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She fondly remembers splitting time between homes in Michigan and Florida.
“My favorite memory is always the Fourth of July parties we had up there (in Michigan) because everyone would always get together. I hopped around houses depending on the time of the year. I would spend six months in Michigan and six months in Florida at Marco Island.”
She worked in a boutique on Marco Island and said she enjoyed that.
She also dabbled in music and said that she wrote a song for her daughter’s graduation.
Heffron has two children, three grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
She said she grew up in the West Pullman area in Chicago, the youngest of four children.
“I got spoiled,” she said.
She was married to Ken Heffron, whom she met in a store, for 30 years.
Vorel stayed in the Chicago area all of his life. Even when he did a stint for the Navy in 1942, he was able to live at home.
He grew up in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago and lived in Evergreen Park and Palos Park before moving to Smith Crossing seven years ago.
He worked for four decades as an engineering draftsman and project engineer.
He also said he was handy and redid his basement in Evergreen Park.
His room at Smith Crossing looks like it means business with books, a printer and computer forming his office.
Because his eyesight isn’t what it once was, Vorel doesn’t use the equipment as much as he used to but there was a time when he used that corner to work on photos.
“I would take pictures and then adjust them on the computer,” he said. “I would enlarge them and put them on glossy paper and they would turn out nice. I am proud of all of them.”
He has been a Bears fan his whole life and still has fond memories of the Super Bowl Championship team in 1985, saying: “They were an unbeatable team back then.”
He had two long marriages. He was married to his first wife, Margaret, for 34 years and his second wife, Frances, for 30.
He has seven children, including a fireman, policeman and school principal, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
He said that in his retirement, he played a lot of golf, enjoyed camping and hiking and took a canoe trip to Minnesota with one of his sons.
Needless to say, he enjoyed his first 100 years of life.
“I would say it was very good,” he said. “I’ve been lucky and blessed.”