TAVARES — Anita Wilson Doebler, believed to be Lake County’s oldest resident, died at 108 years old Wednesday at Brookdale Senior Living in Tavares.

Doebler’s son, Rev. Robert Wilson, 87, of Crozet, Virginia, said he wanted to make sure people knew she was a little older than that.

“She turned 108 and a half last Wednesday," he said. "That was very important to her. She was already thinking about her 109th (birthday) and she was halfway there.”

Wilson, one of four children, two of whom are still living, said he will personally never forget that it was his mother’s encouragement that helped him decide on becoming a pastor.  

The thing he said that most defines Doebler, however, is the care she gave to so many.

“The most important thing people should know about my mom is that she was a wonderful caregiver ... as a daughter, as a mother and as a wife," he said.

Doebler was very close to her only daughter Virginia Moll, who died in November 2016 at the age of 88.

Donald Wilson, 82, another of Doebler’s sons, who lives in Santee, California, said he remembers carrying meals she'd just cooked upstairs to his grandmother who lived with them in Tonawanda, New York.

“Ever since I was a child, my mother has been caring for people and whether it was nice or not so nice at times, she did it with great patience and love,” he said.

But that’s not all the two brothers remember.

“My mom loved to square dance and she would take us to the YMCA every Saturday night. I enjoyed that, I sure did,” recalls Robert Wilson.

Donald said Doebler also liked to bowl and play games like pinochle and Mexican train; a version of dominoes.

Robert even called Doebler “the Rummikub queen,” explaining that while in Tavares for a visit just a couple of months ago before Christmas, he played a few rounds with her and she beat him, like usual.

“We didn’t like to get beat, but we all played with her anyway,” Robert said.

At Brookdale, Doebler was also known for being the first one to show up for activities and at Faith Lutheran Church in Eustis, where Doebler attended, she was always raring to go.

Janet Marcie, the church’s business manager, said the most amazing thing is that whether it was a social event, a volunteer opportunity or a service, Doebler did it with a smile.

“She (Doebler) had been a member for a long time and she did a lot for our church. Even when she wasn’t feeling well, she’d always do what she could and she was sweet and kind and just joyful to everyone. She’s really going to be missed,” Marcie said. “She was someone to admire. She had a wonderful faith that you kind of hope everybody would have and she just kept going and going.

“If I make it to her age, I want to be her.”

Doebler moved to Eustis in 1985 for the great weather and relocated to Brookdale Senior Living in Tavares in 2011. She has 10 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren and she didn’t stop driving until she was 101.

Doebler quit school at the age of 14 to help her parents run the family’s ice cream shop and to care for her father through Parkinson’s disease.

Donald said once married, Doebler was a stay at home mom who made the best pork chops, had a great sense of humor and loved chocolate ice cream and orange chocolate candy.

Donald said he remembers Doebler, in her 90’s, reminiscing about her younger years and saying, “I don’t know where the time went.”

Little did Doebler know then she’d make it all the way to 108-and-a-half.

During her 107th birthday party, when asked by the Daily Commercial for her secret to a long life, Doebler said, “I have no idea why I have lived so long. I guess God wanted it that way.”

A memorial service for Doebler is being planned at Faith Lutheran Church in Eustis, but the date has not yet been determined. Harden Pauli Funeral Home, out of Eustis, is handling the arrangements.