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Mary Locher, oldest Iowan, dies at 109


Posted By: Cheryl Locher Moonen (email)
Date: 3/3/2016 at 05:32:08

Mary Locher, oldest Iowan, dies at 109,
By Patt Johnson
of the Telegraph Herald
Mary Locher, oldest Iowan, at 109 years has a penchant for cross word puzzles. In her younger days, when she was in 70s or 80s – Mary would spend endless hours working the puzzles. She even wrote her own cross word puzzle dictionary to help solve the word mysteries.

Mary, who will be remembered by her friends and relatives for her optimistic outlook and happy dispositions died, Saturday at her Monticello home where she lived with her sister and lifelong companion, Bertha, 92. “I shouldn’t have any regrets but I feel terrible,” Bertha told United Press International. “I always hoped she’s sleep away and that’s what she did.” Amelia Schmidt, also 109 of Guttenburg, now becomes the oldest living Iowan, according to the Iowa Commission of Aging.

Schmidt a resident of the Guttenburg Care Center, was born in Garnavillo, Iowa, on Sept. 7, 1875. Although she had to give up needlepoint because of failing eye sight, she is still alert and active, says son Milton, 83, of Guttenburg.

Mary will best be remembered as a collector, says her niece, Lillian Strittmatter of Monticello. Mary kept dozens of scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of stories about relatives, the history of Monticello, foreign royalty, or “just about anything else she was interested in,” Strittmatter says.

Mary was also an avid stamp collector. She began her hobby when she worked as a postal clerk at the Monticello post office and continued gathering rare and unusual stamps until her retirement in 1940.

The eldest of 16 children, Mary was born June 13, 1875, in Monticello, the same year President U.S. Grant’s administration was rocked by the Whiskey Ring scandals.

The daughter of a blacksmith, Mary taught school in the Monticello schools for 24 years before switching careers. She kept records on all of her students, which she used a few time to assist the Social Security Administration to verify claims.

Although she kept a stacks of things past, Mary always looked forward, says Strittmatter. “She never though much of her age. She was thankful for her wonderful health and looked forward to the future. She told me a few days before she died that she hoped to be able to go to church in the spring."

Devout Catholics, Mary and Bertha only misses Mass when the weather was bad.

The sister, who relatives fondly refer to as “the aunts” were inseparable, Strittmatter says. Neither married and the two shared a two-story home which until recently the maintained themselves.

“She liked me so she stayed with me. She never had any desire to live anywhere else,” Bertha says. After Mary fell following Thanksgiving, the sisters hired a live in companion to help with the chores. Although Mary was confined to bed most of the time since then, she was just as spirited as ever, says Strittmatter.

“She loved to correspond with her many, many, nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews,” Strittmatter says. Mary had more than 60 of her Christmas cards written by Thanksgiving.

She also continued to work on her handstitched, velvet patch work pillows she gave to family members.

Mary was a doer, Strittmatter says, which is what kept her going for so many years. Mary jokingly attributed long-life to being single but more importantly to having a positive attitude.

In a 1980 interview at age 105, she summed it up simply, “I’ve never felt old and I’ve never looked on the dark side.”


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