After blowing kiss to pictures of daughters, Arlington Heights woman dies at 110
Lois Arbanas spent the final moments of her 110 years blowing a kiss at photos of her two daughters, a goodbye to what mattered the most during her life.
Arbanas died a day after Christmas at The Moorings of Arlington Heights retirement community. She was part of an exclusive group of an estimated 60 to 70 supercentenarians -- people 110 years or older -- in the United States.
With her caregiver at her side, Arbanas blew the kiss at photos of her daughters Anne Feichter of Elk Grove Village and Marybeth Shearron of Gurnee, which were mounted on the wall near her bed. Minutes later, she died.
"It was sad, but it actually made us feel good," Feichter said of learning about her mother's final moments. "My mother was such a loving person."
A day earlier, Arbanas' family had gathered in her apartment to celebrate Christmas and open gifts, continuing a tradition even as her health waned. Arbanas remained alert at the gathering and recognized all of her family members, Feichter said.
"Even if she was not doing well, if a birthday came along, she would always rise to the occasion and be OK," Feichter said.
Arbanas, born Dec. 1, 1907, grew up on a farm in northern Michigan as one of eight children, most of whom lived until their mid-90s. Her mother lived until she was 96.
She left the farm for Detroit and met her husband, Joseph. They later settled in Chicago, where the couple raised their two daughters. Arbanas volunteered as a Girl Scout leader, at their hospital and their church. She also recorded books for the blind and drove a bus for disabled children.
She continued helping others later in life by knitting and crocheting blankets for people in hospice care, Feichter said.
In November, the Daily Herald featured Arbanas in a story a month before her 110th birthday. Asked about the secret to her long life, she gave a simple answer: "Exercise and eating right."
After her death, Feichter and Shearron found a poem Arbanas had left for her two daughters with these closing lines:
"I shall offer you this sacred promise: when I am home in God's embrace, whenever you call on me, I will still be present to you, for neither death nor grave can break the bonds of love that we on earth once know."
Arbanas' funeral is 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 6, in the Harbor Room at The Moorings of Arlington Heights, 811 E. Central Road.