‘If You Keep Busy, You Enjoy Life’: 99-Year-Old California Woman Shares her Secrets for Life

Department of General Services analyst May Lee celebrates her 99th birthday at the ziggurat office building in West Sacramento on June 20, 2019, as she is honored for working for the state of California for 76 years. Lee will turn 99 on Sunday, June 23. (Autumn Payne/Sacramento Bee/TNS)
Department of General Services analyst May Lee celebrates her 99th birthday at the ziggurat office building in West Sacramento on June 20, 2019, as she is honored for working for the state of California for 76 years. Lee will turn 99 on Sunday, June 23. (Autumn Payne/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

May Lee drives herself to work nearly every day at 6 a.m. Her job involves saving the state of California millions of dollars every year through audits and analyzing budgets. Oh, and she turned 99 on Sunday, June 23.

Lee, who is of petite stature and moves about with a walker, said she just loves to work. Her philosophy: “If you keep busy, you enjoy life.”

Lee joined the California Department of Finance in 1943. Things were different back then, she recalls. There was no air conditioning. Women couldn’t wear pants to work. Calculations were done using a comptometer.

When the Department of General Services was created in 1963, she was one of the first employees and worked until she “retired” in 1990.

But for her, retirement means working four days a week as a retired annuitant. And, after exhausting her annuitant hours each fall, she continues to work as an unpaid volunteer.

“My license is good until 100,” she said matter-of-factly.

Over the years, Lee has served under 10 governors. She met Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 and last week met Gov. Gavin Newsom while celebrating 76 years of service.

Her impression? He’s tall, she said. However, Lee has met someone else just about the same height as her — Mother Theresa.

Before Lee got her walker, she traveled frequently — she’s been to 150 countries, she said. On one of her trips, she went to Calcutta, India with a tour group. She asked the bus driver to take her to the mission where Mother Theresa was.

“Everybody went shopping and I don’t like shopping,” she said. When she walked in, she made a donation and Mother Theresa invited her to eat lunch with her.

“It was short, so I had to do it quick,” she said, as the bus was waiting outside to take her back to the group.

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SOURCE: Jaimie Ding, The Sacramento Bee