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Mary Thiessen marks a century of living

Staff writer

Mary Thiessen of Hillsboro is celebrating her 100th birthday this week. She lives at Parkside Homes and usually takes a nap until about 4 p.m. every afternoon.

On Saturday, her daughter Enid Cady of Marion, arrived at her room at about 2 p.m. and found her mother awake.

“Mother, you’re not napping,” Enid said.

“No, I’m opening my cards,” Mary replied.

The excitement and anticipation of her Sunday birthday celebration had taken away the need for a nap.

Mary’s children remember her as someone who loved children and always was ready and eager to care for them.

In addition to nurturing and raising her own children, she and her husband, Jake, often took in other children, sometimes for a day or two, sometimes for months.

She taught Sunday school for 10 years, and in her 60s and into her 70s, she worked as a nurse’s aid at Salem Hospital.

That sense of caring was passed on to her family which includes several in the nursing profession.

Mary was born Jan. 21, 1909, to Gerhard and Helena Klaassen Warkentin. She was raised on a farm near Lehigh and was the seventh of a family of 10 girls and four boys. One sister remains.

Mary met Jake Thiessen at Zoar Bible Academy in Inman. They were married Nov. 11, 1934, at Springfield K.M.B. Church southwest of Lehigh.

“We drove away from the church with the car windows down,” Mary recalled.

While living on a farm near Haven, Mary and Jake had two children: Jim and Enid. They built a dairy herd and raised chickens.

In 1942, the family moved to a farm near Canada, where Jim and Enid attended Kreutziger country school.

The family spent one winter in California before returning to the farm at Canada. In 1948, they purchased a farm southeast of Hillsboro, where their daughter Rosemary was born.

Jim and Enid attended Gnadenau Grade School and graduated from there.

According to Enid, Mary spent her time planting flowers and trees and always had a big garden. She put up vegetables and fruit including peaches picked at Wichita orchards.

Each week, she took eggs to town and sold them to pay for the week’s groceries and other basic items.

Each winter, Mary would redecorate one room in the house, and the children were recruited to remove the old wallpaper.

On every special occasion or holiday, Mary sewed new dresses for Enid and her sister, Rosemary.

Wash water was heated in a big, black kettle in the wash room. Diapers were hung on the clothes line no matter what the weather, and often were brought in frozen stiff.

“Mother took much delight in having the ‘whitest wash’ in the neighborhood,” Enid said. “As I can remember, the whites were really white and the colors were really bright.”

Linden came into the family in 1959 as an adopted son. He and his older brother Jim live on farms in the Hillsboro area. Jim is married to Joyce and is a full-time farmer.

Linden and his wife Doreen operated Old Towne Restaurant in Hillsboro for many years. He now is employed by Countryside Feeds at Hillsboro.

Enid operated a crop insurance agency in Marion for 27 years until she sold the business to Jerry Cady and married him in 1995.

Mary experienced the heartache of losing a daughter at a relatively young age. Rosemary, who was a nurse, contracted multiple sclerosis as a young woman and died in 2000 at the age of 52.

Mary and her husband and family enjoyed taking vacations together including trips to California, Colorado, and Canada. After the children were raised, the couple took several bus trips.

Jake died in 1998, and Mary moved to Parkside Homes in May 2007. She said she likes it there.

Enid said when her mother is stimulated, she is alert and talkative. She doesn’t watch TV because she is “saving” her eyes.

She reads using a magnifying glass, including the hundreds of cards she has received.

“She reads every detail of every card, even the back which says who made it,” Enid said.

Enid has observed her mother doing multiplication tables and working at memorizing the books of the Bible.

Mary has six grandchildren. In addition to Sunday’s public reception, the family is having a private celebration with their mother and grandmother Wednesday.

Enid said her mother always keeps a positive attitude and doesn’t let ailments get her down. She is in good health mentally and physically and is looking forward to more years to enjoy her family and friends.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2009

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