Irene Van Voorhis taught at Colonel Crawford, Bucyrus for almost 25 years
GALION — Irene Van Voorhis blew out the one candle on her birthday cake May 31 in Encinitas, California. That lone candle, however, represented not her first birthday, but her 100th!
Born to Elmer and Ella Moser in Richland County in 1918, Irene says that among the changes she’s seen during her century of life are the very way people come into the world. She said the doctor came to her parents’ home in the country when she was born. When she became a mother in the late 1940s and 1950s, she remained in the hospital for 10 to 14 days. Now though, Irene says, mothers may go home from the hospital in seven hours, like Kate Middleton did last month.
Other changes in the past century she has observed include cars and telephones. When she was young, drivers had to get out of their cars and turn a crank in the front of the vehicle to start them. But today, cars are being developed that drive themselves, and telephones — she said — they take pictures! Today’s teens can also easily talk to their friends privately on their smartphones. In the 1930s, families shared a party line with five or six of their neighbors.
Irene remembers that grocery stores were not common when she was a child. Almost everyone was a self-sufficient farmer who produced everything from milk to eggs to meat, fruits and vegetables. And people made their own clothes. Now, few people know how to grow food, and some children even think that food is produced in huge 21st Century grocery stores filled with thousands of products.
Naturally, there are other changes, such as the proliferation of computers and the internet. And there are human footprints on the moon.
Irene graduated from Mansfield Senior High School in 1936 and from Ohio University three years later. While she was in college, she met her first husband, Robert Davis, from Athens, Ohio. They were married in July, 1942 in Florida when he was stationed at Fort Myers. About two weeks after they were married though, he was sent to England to fight in World War II, where he died the following year from polio.
In September, 1948, she married her second husband, Harry Van Voorhis, from Bucyrus. They were married in Mansfield and had two sons, Bruce in 1949 and Gary in 1956. She also has two grandchildren in Encinitas, California, Jeff Van Voorhis, 28, and Laura Van Voorhis, 25.
Irene, who lived most of her life in Galion, was a home economics teacher for more than 30 years, teaching for seven years in Liberty Center, beginning in the fall of 1939, 3½ years in Bucyrus and 21 years in North Robinson.
Reflecting on her life, she says that among her fondest memories are dancing for hours to the Big Band music of Nels Blocker at a dance hall in the country near Crestline. She says it was an era when people danced together.
Irene attributes her longevity to being fortunate to have good genes, as her mother lived to be 91, her father to 80 and her sister Dorothy to 95.
Until a few years ago, Irene said she used to work in her garden for two to three hours at a time. She also shoveled snow. On her 100th birthday, she walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes, something she does every day.
Another secret, she shared, is that “I eat Moose Tracks ice cream every day.”
The birthday party for Irene was held in Encinitas at the home of her son Gary and his wife Karen Sutton. About 20 family members and friends attended the celebration, including her son Bruce and his wife Rose Wu from Hong Kong.