Pauline Wisdom celebrates 100 years
Hard work. Pauline (Wempe) Wisdom said her doctor credits a lifetime of hard work with her longevity, and that he predicted she would live to 100 a number of years ago. On Thursday, Dec. 22, she reached that milestone.
“I thought he was kidding, but here I am!” she said.
Pauline says she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t working on something — milking cows, farming, gardening, raising kids, sewing, quilting and baking, along with anything else that needed done.
“I was just always working, going from one thing to the next,” Pauline said.
Even now, Pauline still lives on her own — with her 16-year-old dog Patches.
Patches is mostly white now, but used to have black and brown patches.
“She’s getting up there in years, you know,” Pauline said.
Before Patches, she had her first little dog, named Buffy, for 12 years. Pauline says she and Buffy used to walk three or four miles each day.
She is always finding things to keep her busy. In warmer months — she dislikes the cold — she still likes to get outside and work in the yard.
“This year, I even canned some tomatoes,” she said. “I wasn’t planning to, but I just couldn’t eat them all so I canned a few jars.”
She also takes great pride in the flowers she has planted around her home.
“When we moved into this house [nearly 40 years ago], there was not a single flower here,” Pauline said. “Now, I’ve got them all over.”
Pauline was the oldest of two girls born to Robert and Fanny Hock Wempe. Her sister was Virginia (Studer), who is no longer living. The family lived about a mile north of Seneca, and her dad farmed and had a dairy business.
“As soon as I was old enough to do much of anything, I was helping with the milking,” she said. “I milked 25 cows, and we bottled it up and delivered it the grocery store in town, a restaurant and to homes. We delivered to homes again at night.”
As she grew older, Pauline said, she helped with more aspects of the milking business — washing out all of the bottles and doing some things alone, as her father was often out working in the fields.
She attended school only through the eighth grade, to allow more time to work at home.
“And work I did!” she said.
When Pauline was 15 or 16, she said, her father died following a major stroke.
“He was milking one morning, and he came in from the barn with such a headache. He leaned against the stove and then he fell,” she said. “We went to the hospital, and they said he had a stroke — not just any stroke but a type that people do not usually recover from, or if they do recover they wish they wouldn’t have.”
Her father lived for just a few days at the hospital before passing away. After that, Pauline said, the milk business was done.
“There was only me left to do it, and I couldn’t handle it all,” she said. “So, I continued to work, learning to do various things on my own — gardening, sewing, stitching, embroidery, quilting — you name it, I did it.”
She even drove a tractor, but says she did not like that one bit.
Pauline met her future husband, Irvin Wisdom, while out dancing. They courted for a few years before getting married, which they did at the parish house in Seneca.
During their married life, the couple lived for short times in Bern, Dubois, Neb., Sabetha and Woodlawn, then on a farm near Goff for 30 years and finally back to Sabetha to her current home, where she has lived in Sabetha for nearly 40 years. She still owned the farm until recently, when she turned it over to her sons.
The couple had three children — one daughter, Vonda, who was born in 1936; and two sons, Ronald in 1938 and Eldon in 1945.
Though she never held a job outside of the home, Pauline says, she always had plenty to do and was always working.
Raising a family, Pauline kept up what she says Irvin referred to as a “five-acre garden.” She canned 900 quarts each year, filling “the cave” with jars of potatoes, tomatoes and numerous other garden crops. She also prepped some vegetables — like carrots and turnips — in sand separated pots, which allowed those crops to keep through the following spring.
“We always had enough to eat through the winter,” she said. “Sometimes it might have gotten a little short, but we always had enough.”
Pauline says she also kept her children and husband in hand-sewn clothing.
“My kids didn’t know there was ready-made clothes until they were almost grown, because I always made their clothes,” she said. “I even made Irvin a hand-sewn suit for our anniversary party.”
Pauline spent a great deal of her adult life quilting for others, some whom she had never met.
“I can’t even think of how many quilts I’ve made,” Pauline said. “In one span of seven years, I made 70 extra large king size quilts.”
She made many orders come in from people she never met.
“I’ve made quilts for people in Hawaii, people in Washington, people all over. Most of them I never even met,” she said. “I would send one quilt, and I guess these people would see it and send requests for me to make one for them.”
“I was usually outside working all day, so I would often get up at night and quilt for two or three hours,” Pauline said.
For awhile, Pauline said she also baked cakes for events, making a number of wedding cakes.
“But I just didn’t have time to keep doing that and quilting, so I gave up making cakes for the most part,” she said.
Always busy moving from one project to another, Pauline said she didn’t take much time to travel.
“We went once to Washington state to visit a relative,” she said. “We just always had work to do.”
But Pauline and Irvin did still enjoy going dancing, and did so on some Saturday nights. They also belonged to three card party groups.
“The kids told us they had to make an appointment to see us,” Pauline said.
In their first 10 years of marriage, Pauline went through more major health crises than she has since. In those 10 years, she had an appendectomy, a hysterectomy and a breast tumor removed.
Since then, it’s been all “minor” ailments considering her age, she said.
Her biggest problem now, she says, is her memory.
“I can remember things that happened a long time ago, but I get so provoked when I can’t remember something I should — like a person’s name. I know their face, but I can’t pull their name,” Pauline said.
Pauline and Irvin had three children — Vonda, Ronald and Eldon.
Vonda (McClain) passed away in 1994, and Irvin passed away in 1999.
Her two sons are still living. Ronald lives in Silver Lake, and Eldon lives in Concordia.
She had seven grandchildren — Vonda had two, Ronald had two and Eldon had three — though the oldest has passed away. She now also has 12 great grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
“I don’t think we really preached to them [our kids],” Pauline said. “We just told them to be truthful and not get into trouble. I think they all turned out pretty well.”
Amber Deters134 Posts
Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.