Lillian Nelsen Anderson started bowling at 65 and took up golf when she was 70. She handled her own taxes and finances up until the year before she turned 100.
On Aug. 28, the longtime Hicksville resident died peacefully in her home at age 103 -- about two weeks shy of her 104th birthday.
At her funeral on Sept. 1, family members remembered Anderson -- who was known as "Lil" -- as an optimistic and independent woman, even when she was in declining health. Strong but gentle. Everyone's hero.PhotosRecent notable deaths See alsoSee more LI, U.S. obits
Anderson taught her grandchildren lessons on fairness and made her famous chocolate cake with yellow icing for their birthdays.
"I don't think I was ever jealous of anyone, but I am jealous of Lil, not because of the quantity of years but the quality of those years," her son-in-law, Rick Merzbacher, told mourners.
Anderson, a retired executive secretary for the Town of Oyster Bay, lived a vibrant life, family members said, filled with regular Canasta and Rummy card games with friends, golf league tournaments and frequent hair and nail appointments.
"She lived as if she was a much younger woman," said her daughter, Joyce Merzbacher, 65, of Farmingdale.
Anderson was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 10, 1911 -- "nine-ten-eleven," as she used to say. A child of Norwegian immigrants, she grew up in poverty, the fourth of six children. Her family moved to Hicksville when she was 10.
Anderson completed ninth grade before leaving school at 14 to help support her family. She later attended Drake Business School in Queens and worked as a stenographer in East Williston and then Women's Wear Daily in Manhattan for almost 13 years.
In 1988, Anderson's husband, Francis, a former Nassau County clerk, died. Their oldest son, John, 73, said he worried about his mother afterward, but his concerns were unfounded.
"She blossomed," said the retired Navy captain, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
Anderson became an inaugural member of the Mercy League when the charitable organization that raises money for Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre formed a women's golf league. At 90, she was the oldest volunteer at the 2002 U.S. Open in Bethpage, working as a fitting room monitor in the merchandise tent.
"If I ever want to see Tiger Woods play, this is my chance," she told Newsday in 2002.
Despite her active schedule, Anderson still made time to dote on her family, which includes several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of her granddaughters, Laurene Fleischer, 39, a pediatrician who lives in Huntington, named her firstborn, who is now 7, after Anderson.
"I have a Lillian to carry on," Fleischer said.
Fleischer's sister, Kristina Hilton, 37, of Farmingdale, said she admired her grandmother. "If I could be exactly like her, that would be the best thing," she said.
In 2010, Anderson was hospitalized for complications related to congestive heart failure. But she was determined to get better to regain her mobility and to see her two granddaughters give birth, Merzbacher said. "Her will was to meet those two great-grandchildren," she said.
Fleischer said her grandmother was so resilient, "You almost never thought she was going to die," she said.
When Merzbacher became a grandparent, she received a poem, "The Magic of Grandparents." She placed a framed copy of it in her mother's casket.
"She was magical in many ways," Merzbacher said.
Her husband ended his eulogy of his mother-in-law with a farewell: "Mom, enjoy your well-earned prize. Thank you. We love you."
In addition to her son and daughter, survivors include another son, Bill, of Bellport; six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Anderson is buried at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, near her husband.
The family requests donations be made to the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, in memory of John Anderson II, a grandson of Anderson's who died in January of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.