“I have a lot to say because I’m wise, I’ve lived a long life so I have a lot of information,” she says. Then with perfect comedic timing, punctuated by the most delightfully devilish laugh, she adds, “I’m lying. I don’t know a thing. I can’t even work my Kindle.”
Meet Eileen, a woman who has lived through every world event and history making moment over the last century, including the digital revolution, which gave rise to social media. While the spunky Grandma, known for her wit and wisdom, doesn’t count Tweeting and Periscoping among her daily pastimes, she’s about to get a crash course in both as she becomes the digital Ambassador of her favorite fast food joint – Wendy’s – tomorrow, January 10th, on her 99th birthday. She’ll be doling out life advice, via Periscope, in response to questions submitted by Wendy’s Twitter followers, compliments of an awesome plan hatched by her adoring grandson, Mike Matthews.
“Whenever I fly into town from NYC, Grandma Eileen and I have a long-standing tradition of eating lunch at Wendy’s,” Mike recounts. “As a self-absorbed millennial I’ve relished my time with her as she brings me back to what’s important.” And for two to three hours she “seamlessly weaves through humor, seriousness and depth, sharing stories, asking questions and learning.” He adds, “I always leave a better human.”
So following one of their lunches in October 2014, Mike tweeted this photo to Wendy’s and they retweeted it to their more than 800,000 followers. Both grandson and grandma were absolutely floored with Eileen exclaiming, “It’s like you can talk to Wendy’s! My generation could never do this.”
Her excitement over that one social media experience gave Mike an idea for her 99th birthday. He was determined to get Wendy’s to let her take over their Twitter feed on January 10th, 2016… a single day where anyone could send her questions about life (using the hashtag #AskEileen) and she could respond.
So Mike got to work putting together a social media campaign that Wendy’s would hopefully notice. It included this video, which he published just two weeks ago, on December 24, 2015…
With that, it didn’t take very long for the company to fall madly in love with Eileen and they quickly put wheels in motion to make Mike’s dream for her a reality.
So tomorrow, January 10th, 2016, for her 99th birthday, a Wendy’s crew will be live-streaming Grandma Eileen at her local Wendy’s in Seattle from 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM PST on Periscope. She’ll be answering questions that folks can start Tweeting right now using the hashtag #AskEileen. Mike told us, “Wendy’s/Grandma will pick as many as they can respond to,” and he’s asking everyone to join in on her birthday fun.
Not being an active user of social media herself, Eileen can’t fully grasp the magnitude and scope of what’s about to happen to her. As Mike shared with us, “She just knows she’s having a conversation with Wendy’s on her birthday and getting a free lunch.”
“What’s a Tweet, and why would people be following me?” – Grandma Eileen
In advance of her BIG social media debut tomorrow, Mike gave Women You Should Know the exclusive chance to #AskEileen some of our own questions, and here’s what we learned about this woman everyone will soon know…
Eileen was born on January 10, 1917 in Arvada, CO on “a very cold and snowy winter’s night.” She told WYSK, “The doctor came in a sleigh to deliver me. I was a premature baby and not expected to live.” But live she most certainly did, seizing every day since.
After growing up in Salt Lake City, UT, and spending summers on her grandfather’s ranch in Colorado, Eileen studied psychology at the University of Utah. Then came marriage. She said, “I married the love of my life, Lawrence Wilkinson, in 1937. He was a Navy Flier who flew many important missions in WWII, and ultimately worked as chief engineer at the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.” Eileen, on the other hand, “was busy rearing four amazing children and active in leadership in many women’s and children’s organizations” in both her church and community. She has been a widow for 22 years, and now lives in Seattle. What Eileen enjoys most is spending time with her family, including her “beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Having lived through nearly 10 decades of history, we were really curious to know if there was one particular moment or event Eileen witnessed that struck her as truly game-changing for women? She replied, “In the Post War 50’s women got restless because they were doing the work of men and only getting half the pay. I knew many women in this situation. They were waking up to making changes, resulting in the Women’s Movement, opening doors to greater education and work opportunities for women.”
“I don’t think there’s anything else my Grandma would rather do than use a megaphone to the women of the next generation.”
What was so incredible about our chat with Eileen was having the ability to bounce in a single conversation from more weighty topics like women’s rights, to truly lighter matters like the fact that Wendy’s chili doesn’t give her gas. In fact, their chili and their salad are her favorite meal to order. So we got to experience exactly what Mike described about his cherished chats with his Grandma… her seamless ability to weave through “humor, seriousness and depth.”
And maybe that’s the secret to her longevity, appreciating both the humor and depth in life. But rather than assume, we asked her straight up, and Eileen broke it down for us like this, “Decide to be happy wherever you live, whatever your circumstances; know when to keep your mouth shut by being a good listener; have good friends, and have a sense of humor.”
In so many ways Eileen has inspired us, and completely stolen our hearts, so we know that she will do the same for everyone who is lucky enough to engage with her in the Wendy’s social feed tomorrow. And now that she’s on the verge of “internet fame,” we wondered what her impressions of social media are, even though she’s never really used it up until now. “I think it’s a bit excessive,” she replied. “People are so busy taking photos to ‘capture the moment’ that they lose ‘the moment’–but I love viewing the photos.” Spot on perspective, once again.
Our ability to interview Eileen and get to know her would not have been possible without the help of her Grandson Mike, who over the last week, has been been giving us real-time updates as the details on the #AskEileen campaign continued to evolve. In expressing to him what an honor it was to have the chance to tell her story, he truly melted our WYSKy hearts when he said in response, “Thanks again for doing this. I don’t think there’s anything else my Grandma would rather do than use a megaphone to the women of the next generation.”
Happy 99th Birthday Grandma Eileen… a woman we are so honored to know!