On the cusp of Thanksgiving 2009, Leonora Cox, 102 on Dec. 30, and the oldest person at the Fairfield Senior Center, was asked what she was thankful for.

Without blinking an eye, Cox, widowed for 37 years, said she is thankful "for a long and healthy life. What else can I say?"

Her mother and grandmother lived to be 98. However, her father died at 43 from injuries suffered during World War I combat.

"Longevity is in the genes from my mother's side," she said, fingering the plain gold wedding band her grandmother wore for nearly 100 years.

Even with the longevity, Cox relies on a cane when walking 2 miles in the corridors at the Senior Center before she settles down to lunch

The walk takes two hours and is integral to her physical fitness regime.

"One has to keep moving," she said.

Cox, during numerous conversations with this reporter, demonstrated that her memory is keen. However, due to glaucoma and a deterioration of close vision she no longer can read. Her distance vision is still sharp, she contends.

Due to her deteriorating close vision, Cox was forced to memorize all the prayers she likes to say, and she can now "recite them without ever looking at a page."

Cox isn't much of a fan of television, saying that she "never did watch it. It is a waste." However, she gets her news and some music from the radio. Even with all that's going on in the world today, Cox believes that people shouldn't shy away.

"The news is pretty bad these days but we need to face that," she said.

"I think it is sad so many people appear to avoid news because it is full of things to worry about. But one can't run away from it," Cox said.

Exploring into her eating habits, Cox related that she is not overly fond of eating fatty or fried food, or indulging in chocolate, alcoholic beverages or smoking.

She just "never cared" for such things.

"After I grew up I asked my mother if, as a child, I was a finicky eater," Cox said. "My mother replied sternly, `Only once.'"

When the conversation came around to her husband Harry, a fellow Brit she married in Sussex, England, near his home, Cox said, "Harry was a silversmith but during the Great Depression there wasn't much call for silversmiths in England or America. People didn't have any money. He worked as an executive with General Motors most of his life in America, except during the time he was conscripted into the U.S. Army during World War II."

Later on in Harry's life, Cox said, he served in the Pacific War Theater and became an American citizen when he was discharged.

Living without her husband around led Cox to become a lifelong Yankees fan.

"As a result of Harry's Army service and absence, I had to take out son Harry Jr. to Yankees games. I became an undying Yankees fan and am to this day. So is Harry Jr., I believe."

Cox, during her retrospective, reported she got to be up close and personal with warfare's consequences during World War I and World War II.

"When I was a child living on the outskirts of London, we encountered German airships and zeppelins trying to drop bombs. Two were shot down by our anti-aircraft guns. We had to stay indoors during the attacks and the firing of artillery shells from our British anti-aircraft gunners. Shrapnel from the shells rained down the trees and was a danger to all," Cox said.

However, one image stands out for Cox. "I did catch a view of a zeppelin that looked like a big fat red cigar in the sky, the result of an anti-aircraft hit, I think," Cox said.

Regarding the first World War, Cox remembers how the British people handled the events.

"It was a frightful time but as the British always do, there was little complaining and there was an attitude of putting up with things and moving forward in a positive frame of mind. That's the British spirit," Cox said.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, Cox recalled war-related disruptions. One disruption was rationing of gasoline and sugar. People also endured blackouts and air raid drills. Fear was intense and constant, especially over the possibility of a Nazi invasion from German subs plying Long Island Sound. They carried troops that allegedly could raid the coastline towns or sneak saboteurs into the country under cover of night.

Cox's retrospective covered many ideas, including working, lifestyle and travel.

Regarding working, Cox said she has worked all her life. "When I wasn't doing it for pay, I volunteered full work weeks for community service through St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Queens. You have to keep working as long as you can."

About lifestyle, Cox said that "you have to be yourself. That is, you must not put on airs."

Living 102 years lends itself to a significant amount of travel. Before marriage, Cox visited Switzerland, Germany and many European countries while also spending 18 months living in American cities.

According to Cox, New York was the greatest and best, though she particularly enjoyed a trip to a ranch in Little Big Horn, Wyo., as well.

However, back then, there were no planes. For Cox, it was a five-day train trip where she changed trains in Chicago.

"I enjoyed the time with the cowboys, especially when they serenaded us with cowboy singing accompanied by guitar strumming. It was glorious," Cox said.

Looking forward, Cox has no idea what will be up for her 102nd birthday on Dec. 30. She recalled that her 100th birthday two years ago brought letters from then Pres.George W. Bush, Connecticut senators Joe Lieberman and Christopher Dodd and Congressman Chris Shays, plus Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other state and local officials.

"I was presented with all kinds of letters and certificates," she recalled.