In the kitchen with Lillian Carter

| 20 Mar 2012 | 05:49

She’s a “happy, young 84” years old and she still had plenty of kick in her.Witty and sharp-minded, Lillian Carter has lived through the loss of two husbands and her beloved daughter but there’s not an ounce of self- pity evident.Carter is a survivor, a woman who recognizes that life goes on and you make the most of it.She has friends and afamily who have enwrapped her in love and support and her faith has led her through the dark times.

Born and raised in Forest Hills, NY, her family moved to Richmond Hill where she lived until she was married.She was an only child with a happy childhood.

In 1937 Carter’s father built a summer home in Pinecliff Lake in West Milford.She has fond memories of swimming, biking and horseback riding, “It was just heaven to be up here every summer,” she said.

She recalls the old township, when there were no paved roads into the lake area and stores were few. She remembers hearing about Pearl Harbor, wondering where it was, and the ensuing years when boys she grew up with in Pinecliff went off to war.

“I was 17 when it was over.They were sad years; we didn’t know what would happen next.When the Japanese surrendered we rode around the lake blowing horns.We were so excited and thrilled that it was over.We thought it was over, we didn’t know what the future was going to bring,” Carter said.

When Carter graduated from Dominican Commercial High School in Jamaica she went to work for the New York Telephone Company in the accounting department.

“It was my first and last job.I worked there for six years, until my little cherub was born,” she said.

Carter met William Joseph Hanny and his childhood friend Bob Carter, when she was 18 years old.She married Hanny, just out of the Navy, in 1949.The couple had their only child, Ellen, in 1952.

In 1973, when Hanny was just 49 years old, he died of a massive heart attack on the job. Two men and a priest arrived at her door to break the news to her.She thought they were selling church raffles.

“It was a shock you absolutely can’t believe.My life changed pretty fast.Then I turned around and married his best friend,” she said.

She recalls that she had always loved Carter as a friend.He said to her “I’m alone, you’re alone, what do you say?”She said yes. In 1974 they married and in 1979 they moved to Pinecliff Lake.“He was wonderful and we had 30 years of happy times,” Carter said.

Carter became active in West Milford, serving aspresident of boththe Pinecliff Lake board of trustees andLong Pond Iron Works.Along with Bob she put in many hours at the historic site, Bob doing whatever needed to be done until a porch roof of one of the old homes fell in on him.He suffered nail puncture wounds and a broken leg.

But the Carter’s worst days were ahead of them.Ellen, “My wonderful, beautiful girl,” passed away in 1999 from melanoma after a 13 month battle.“She was the light of my life,” Carter said.

Ellen’s husband, Ringwood attorney Michael Walker, stood lovingly by his wife then held the family together with gentle hands after her passing.Along with his two children, Kevin and Jennifer, the family survived intact, caring for each other.

“I’m grateful to God.We are a little family but we’re very tight,” Carter said.

In 2005 Lillian’s beloved Bob passed away and she moved to Bald Eagle Commons.

“I buried two husbands and my child and I’m still here.I guess it’s the Irish in me.I think your main goal in life is to not make everyone else miserable because you are. With everything that’s happened my first words were always ‘Sweet Jesus, help me’.”

She’s had her own health issues and recently suffered a broken shoulder.But there’s new happiness in this little family.

Six months ago Kevin and his wife Brittany had a baby boy. Kevin insisted his “Nanna” be at the hospital for the birth. When Dylan arrived she stood there with her family, all of them in tears.Joyous ones for sure, butbittersweet, missing Ellen.

“I wanted her to be there.But you have to put that aside and have faith that things happen for a reason,” she said. Now this new little cherub has stolen her heart.Carter keeps busy; she paints, she’s part of the Serendipity Singers at Bald Eagle, she travels to Maineto visitfriends,she enjoys moviesanddinnerwith her family every Sunday. Michael is the cook; Lillian has hung up her apron for good.

She sent in a recipe from Diane Magnussen, her dear friend in Maine. Carter claims she lost her recipes while moving.Isn’t that convenient?