Clevenger celebrates 107th birthday today

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UNION CITY, Ind.— Inez Clevenger is turning 107 today and she’s proud of it and ready to celebrate.

“I’ve had a good life. I try to do the best I can with what I got,” she said.

Born Oct. 28, 1915, Inez resides at American Heritage Assisted Living here, and enjoys life there.

“I just take a day at a time,” she added. “Life is good to me. If you need a place to stay, Nicole (Fenton, the facility’s executive director) and her helpers are really good to you.”

Clevenger 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. But, her achievements don’t stop there. She was named grand marshal of this year’s Union City Community Junior-Senior High School (UCJSHS) Homecoming Parade.

“Their theme was ‘Through the Decades,’ and Brad Hoggatt, the organizer, said he couldn’t think of a better person to be grand marshal…after all, she’s seen many decades,” said local businesswoman Shelly King. “She’s an absolute delight.”

Grandson, Blake Clevenger, a computer technologist at Randolph Eastern School, drove the golf cart on which Inez rode through the homecoming parade.

“I met a lot of people and saw some I knew,” she said.

She loves her life at the assisted living facility and enjoys the people in it.

Her one and only surviving sibling, sister, Myrtle McKnight, now resides there and the two generally watch television together in the evenings in Inez’s apartment.

“I don’t stay in my room unless I have to,” Clevenger said. “I take my walker and go to the dinner table at mealtimes and I walk some of the time. I put puzzles together and play bingo. I go get my nails and hands done.”

Yet, she wishes she could still do some baking….such as her well-liked little banana breads.

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

Her hobbies are coloring and writing poetry.’

She did admit though that she hasn’t written any poems for awhile, and doesn’t do exercises anymore. “But, I get by,” she said.

She does, however, attend the Lutheran Church west of town every Sunday, thanks to good friends Jim and Gloria Saintignon who take her there.

“I hate to not go because I miss seeing the people,” Inez said.

Clevenger had a variety of jobs over the years, subsequently retiring from the Boston Store in Union City. She had also worked prior to that for an optometrist, Dr. Byrd, at the time she got involved with the local Community Help Center.

She volunteered her time with the Lutheran Church, which had a clothes closet, which 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,” she said. “I started with the Community Help Center after being approached by the preacher and Roberta Hart. I was there for 13 years. This was a godsend to me.”

After Hart, who was a minister, started to get busier in her own work, she asked Inez and Don Fields to take over.

“I did the food part and Don the money part,” recalled Inez, who still keeps up on news at the center with friends telling her about it.

“They tell me because they knew that that was my baby,” she said.

Clevenger never thought she’d live this long, and noted she has lived longer than anyone else in her family.

Why does she think she has lived to be 107?

“I like staying busy; I like doing something,” she said.

She outlived her husband, Ralph, who died at the age of 51, and her only son, Eugene, who died at 55. She also 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.

She knew life had to go on, so she did some traveling and kept up her busy pace.

With the exception of two broken hips after falls and some dental work, Clevenger said she is healthy. However, she noted that she has lost part of her eyesight but can still read and get around.

Ever since Inez came to the assisted living facility she has lived in the same room.

“Everything I own is in this room,” she said, looking around.

Here are some excerpts from a previous interview by this reporter as Inez reflects on her life.

She said she went to a one-room school at Concord in Greenville on State Route 571-East.

“One teacher taught us all,” Clevenger reminisced. “She put our lessons on the blackboard. We were taught arithmetic and she taught us how to write. She played a Victrola and we had to write according to the rhythm.”

She said each student would get one brown, wooden pencil, and they would exchange the schoolbooks back and forth.

“Tablets cost 5 cents each,” she said.

Concord and another local school, Midnight, got together and participated in activities as spelling bees and ciphering matches, she recalled.

When she graduated from Greenville High School, the family lived on a farm. After her father John Lindemuth’s death, it left their mother to raise the seven children.

Four of the brothers served in the military, and all siblings are gone with the exception of 94-year-old Myrtle who was the youngest of the bunch while Inez was the eldest.

“We are close-knit. We came up the hard way,” she said. “We were farmers. We had no electricity and just one car. We were taught our lessons by a coal oil lamp on the table.”

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

“That’s when she decided to sell the farm,” Clevenger recalled. “We had no modern conveniences. We had one black horse, named Dick, for our transport.

We raised our own meat and butchered three hogs at a time with the help of neighbors. 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,” she said. “We were a Christian family and went to church every Sunday.”

Shelly King extends an invitation to Facebook readers to help Inez celebrate her 107th.

“If you would like to help celebrate her big day, please send birthday cards to 204 Staudt Drive, Union City, Indiana, 47390,” King said.