CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP (AP) – Visit every state in America. That was on the bucket list that Wilma Lee of Chesterfield Township created as an adventurous teen. She’s striking the last state off her list in time for her 90th birthday.
“We’re going to Hawaii,” Lee told The Macomb Daily.
She will be traveling with her daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Ron Current of Washington Township, who have accompanied Lee on several trips including a recent cruise to Alaska.
“It’s a good thing I took that trip when I was 80-plus,” said Lee, while studying an old map of the United States sitting on her kitchen table. “If I would’ve been 60-something I might have stayed in Alaska. It was so different, so beautiful.”
But Michigan is pretty, too, as are the states of Washington, Oregon and Montana, said Lee, walking her fingers across the map toward California. “California is nice but it gets crowded. Wyoming has the nicest people. (And) if you’re looking for a great place to eat, I know of a nice little place in Adele, Iowa.” Each outline on the map triggered a memory, having to do with a trip that Lee has taken, alone or with a family member. When Lee’s granddaughter, Melissa Gerety was given an internship in California, guess who kept her company during her stay? Grandma Lee.
“My mother has always loved to travel,” said Karen, who inherited her mother’s passion for traveling. “She wanted to see nature, and what God has created.” As for the paper map, it was a placemat that Lee got in some diner, in some town, during a road trip that she and a girlfriend made after graduating from high school.
Some of the states are colored in, a task that Lee used to complete after visiting each state. “Now I try not to touch it,” Lee said. “It’s just that the age has gotten to it.”
As a young woman growing up in Hamtramck, Lee was known to be community oriented. She was among the women – known as Rosie the Riveters – who dedicated her time to the World War II effort. But when time was hers, she was out the door and on the road.
“I always had a bag packed with at least one change of clothes,” she said.
When her husband Harry was alive, the two of them traveled to Pennsylvania to visit his folks. After Lee retired, she moved north of Pinconning, where she lived for several years, even after Harry was gone.
While on her own, Lee always made a point of letting her children know when she was on the go.
“I remember one time she said, `Your aunt and I are going for a little ride. We might not be home tonight. We’re going to Mount Pleasant,”‘ said Karen. Her daughter thought nothing of it because Mount Pleasant is only an hour or so away from Pinconning. Three days later, Lee called Karen back to let her know she and her aunt had arrived in Mount Pleasant, Texas.
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