A Lifetime of Giving Is Clevenger’s Forte at 108

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Inez Clevenger is shown in a photo taken this week at American Heritage in Union City, Ind. She will mark her 108th birthday on Saturday. A card shower is planned. (Courtesy photo)

UNION CITY, Ind.— Inez Clevenger said when she was approaching her 95th birthday, she never thought she would make it.

“But here I am,” she said several days before her 108th birthday in her room at American Heritage Assisted Living here.

Yes, Inez’s next birthday is Saturday, Oct. 28, and the facility is hosting a card shower for her. Those interested in sending her a birthday card may do so at 204 Staudt Drive, Union City, Ind., 47390.

In past years, she was featured on WHTR Radio, Channel 13, on the morning of her 104th birthday, and she had the opportunity to speak at the Union City Rotary Club on her 100th and 103rd birthdays. And she was named grand marshal of the Union City Community Junior-Senior High School Homecoming Parade last year.

Life has changed for her from a year ago, as she has developed more vision issues.
“I am unable to see anymore,” she said. “I eat a lot of my meals with my fingers because I can’t see what I’m eating.”

She gets a lot of assistance with activities at the facility, including bingo, which she dearly enjoys, by her friend Diane Harling.

Beforehand, even last year, she was up and about doing what she does best: cooking and taking an active role in her life at the facility.

“I’ve had a good life. I just take a day at a time,” she said. “I try to do the best I can with what I got. I like to share. The secret to living is to share what you have.”

She feels like she did exactly that in her childhood and as an adult as well. She retired from the Boston Store in Union City before going to work for an optometrist, Dr. Byrd, after which she got involved with the local Community Help Center.

Inez Clevenger was interviewed last year as her 107th birthday approached. She shared a lot of memories. (Linda Moody photo)

She had volunteered her time with the Lutheran Church, which had a clothes closet and eventually merged with the Christian Church, which had a food pantry, to form the Community Help Center. She retired from there at age 90.

“I love life and helping people,” said Inez. “I started with the Community Help Center after being approached by the preacher and Roberta Hart. I liked to work with people. You help out the people, and they will help you out. You don’t want to be selfish.”

Inez was born Oct. 28, 1915, the second of seven children of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Lindemuth.

Her only surviving sibling, Myrtle McKnight, has also been living at the facility for the past year. She will be 96 and visits her eldest sister nearly every day.

Inez has lived at the facility for 20 years in the same room and recommends it for anybody considering somewhere to stay in their golden years. She loves the staff and the people living there.

Inez may not be able to see, but she has her memories and enjoys talking about the food she has made over the years in the kitchen there, the activities in which she participated, and, of course, her family. She baked a lot, her specialty being her banana bread.

She used to never stay in her room unless she had to, taking her walker to the dinner table at mealtimes and putting together puzzles, playing bingo, exercise, and getting her nails and hair done.

Inez decided to quit driving at the age of 90 due to family concerns.

Her hobbies have included coloring and writing poetry.

“I just sit here, eat, and sleep now,” she said.

She also no longer attends the Lutheran Church west of town and misses her church family.

She outlived not only her parents (her father at the age of 46 and her mother at the age of 87) and five siblings but also her husband, Ralph, who died at the age of 51, and her only son, Eugene, who died at 55. She has two grandsons, Blake of Union City and Troy of Michigan, and three great-grandchildren in Michigan.

“I lost my son and husband, but you just go on and don’t stop,” said Clevenger, who met her husband on a blind date with friends at the Bradford Pumpkin Show. “After the third time dating him, I knew I liked him.”

They were married 19 years at the time of his death.

Inez said she went to a one-room school and was taught well, as she enjoyed the spelling bees and ciphering matches.

Like all of her siblings, all were graduates of Greenville High School; she in 1935.
Four of her brothers served in the military.

“We were close-knit. We came up the hard way,” Inez reflected on her life. “We were farmers. We had no electricity and just one car. We were taught our lessons by a coal oil lamp on the table. We butchered and raised our own meat.”

She said her mother pulled it off after their father died, even though there were trying times, especially when the boys had to serve their country.

“That’s when she decided to sell the farm,” Inez recalled. “We had no modern conveniences. We had one black horse. In those days, everyone had to work because we had no money. Mom worked in the fields and shucked corn to keep food on the table. We never went hungry. It wasn’t a lot of fancy foods but we had food. We always had a big garden and a truck patch on a 60-acre farm, raising wheat, corn, and tobacco.”

She added, “We had everyday clothes, church clothes, and play clothes. We were a Christian family and went to church every Sunday. We usually did the laundry on Mondays and ironing on Tuesdays. Those days are gone forever. You live one day at a time, and God will take care of you; that’s my theme.”

Here are some excerpts from a tribute Bev Thornburg made for Inez two years ago:
Thornburg began her tribute, which she titled “Inez Clevenger-A Lifetime of Giving:”

It began, “Where does one begin when writing about your mentor? A person who has spent her lifetime helping in service to others? A difficult task for sure. Having been the recipient of her love and friendship has taught me that no matter what becomes us, no matter where our road goes, faith and keep walking. God is with you.”

“Inez knew that she wanted her life to be that of a good mother, wife, and Christian. She wanted to dedicate herself to volunteering and in giving to the church just as her parents did. She never forgot the Golden Rule.”

“Inez has been involved in several local civic groups, including the Jackson Home Extension Club, Cecilian Music Club, Alpha Delta Omega, a sorority to benefit the library, and a member of Trinity Lutheran Church.”

“God must have been in a wonderful mood when He sent Inez to that little farm in Ohio. She has certainly tried to make her own little corner of the world a better place. She has shared God’s love in about everything that she’s done. I am so grateful to have her in my life. She has a direct way of helping me look at the bigger picture and to appreciate every good thing that happens, no matter how small it may be. Don’t dwell on the negatives (she tells me). Wonderful people like Inez make me realize just how much God loves us.”