Julia Sidwell celebrates her 106th birthday

Friends gathered in Middletown on Dec. 13 to celebrate the 106 birthday of Julia Simmons Lattomus Sidwell – one of Delaware’s oldest women.

Born in 1908, Sidwell spent many years in her birth city of Wilmington, and the latter part of her life in Port Penn. She was married two times and had a son. Her spouses and son have passed away, but her two granddaughters live in Florida and Georgia respectively.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) could not confirm if Sidwell was indeed the oldest woman in the state since those vital statistics records are private under the law, but said that it was clear to them that she was one of the state’s oldest residents.

“I don’t know whether I’m lucky or if it’s the worst situation in the world,” Sidwell told the Transcript, chuckling. “I don’t like how things are going, politically.”

Known for being very active in the community, Sidwell has been credited for funding the Port Penn Civic Association and the Port Penn Area Historical Society. She was a member in numerous other organizations and was on first name basis with elected officials in the state.

During her younger years, she held many jobs. She was a secretary, telephone operator, a columnist for the Middletown Transcript, and worked alongside her mother, Bertha Hayes Simmons, in a couple of business ventures: a hair salon and a dancing studio where Sidwell taught ballroom, ballet, and tap dancing.

“My mother was a pusher, she was a getter. She went after the most impossible things and made them work,” Sidwell recalls.

A cancer survivor, Sidwell is in relatively good health. Her hearing has gotten weaker and she is now in a wheelchair, but mention the Philadelphia Phillies and her face lights up.

“I got into baseball I guess 30 years ago. My mother used to play ball and my dad too, just for fun,” she recalls. “I love the Phillies.”

When asked what the secret to her long life is, she replied with no hesitation.

“Beer! I like a nice cold Heineken every now and then. And I don’t take medicine, except for Robitussin only when I have a cold,” she said.

For those who take care of Sidwell now – Jim Rausch of Townsend, and his sister, Darlene Moody of Port Penn – being around Sidwell is an inspiration.

“We are not her original family, but she adopted us. She is our granny,” Moody said. “Julia is a special part of us.”

Those who attended her birthday party included many friends, her former doctor, and the former pastor of the church she attended when she lived in Port Penn.

This is the second time that the Transcript interviewed Sidwell on her birthday; the first time was when she turned 100 years old. Back then she told the newspaper that her long life was attributed to having an optimistic outlook.