For Ina L. Armour, who celebrated her 100th birthday Dec. 20 at the Hickory Creek at Sunset Nursing Facility in Greencastle, it has been a wonderful century.
Born in 1908, she was the oldest daughter and second oldest child in a family with eight children. She learned early in life to work hard and continued to do so throughout her life.
"She lived on her own into her 90s," recalled her oldest son Dale. "She was even putting up Christmas lights on a big cedar tree in her front yard and on the house when she was in her 80s. She loves Christmas and all the lights," he recalled.
Both her sons, Dale and Dwane, agreed that hard work is probably one of the things that helped her live to see 100 years.
"She has always worked hard. I don't remember her when she wasn't working on something. When she was eight months pregnant with my sister Diane, she would climb up into the hayloft and toss down hay with the pitchfork," he remembered smilingly.
In a video memoir filmed by her daughter Diane and son-in-law Don Hall in June 2000, Ina recalled her family's history and stories about growing up in Hindsboro, Ill. in the early 1900s.
Her paternal grandparents' farmed Still, acreage outside the town with all the work being done with horse-drawn equipment. Her grandmother emigrated from Germany.
Her mother's family owned a store in Hindsboro and the family lived above it. She was very close to her grandmother "Lizzie" who moved with Ina to Indianapolis when she attended the Teachers College of Indianapolis: Madam Blaker's all-girl college.
Growing up, she went to school in a one-room building. Ina, who was six years old, had to share one seat with two older girls. The odor in the room was so bad she would dab some of her mother's vanilla extract on to keep from smelling it.
After she finished college, she returned to Hindsboro and was hired to teach first and second grade in the one room schoolhouse she attended. There were over 35 kids in the schoolhouse. She made $90-$100 a month, but had to resign when she married George Armour. She recalled buying her parents a battery radio while she was teaching.
Although she lived with her grandparents in town during her high school years, she spent a lot of time on the family farm. In the video of her memoirs she talks about gypsies who camped near the one-room schoolhouse that was located next to her uncles' barn.
"There would be as many as 10 covered wagons, each with two horses. They often came begging for food or milk for their families. My father never turned them down. He gave them eggs, chickens, milk and sometimes beef," Ina said in the video. This was because he was afraid his barn full of hay might be burned if he refused.
She remembered her family's Maxwell automobile. They would drive it to Charlestown for the fair.
"A rainstorm required a stop for about an hour to put the top up and close the side curtains. Then the sun came out, making it unbearably hot. My father would curse and mother would scold him for ruining their nice trip to the fair," she said in her video memoir.
He spent most of his time in a tree house avoiding watching the family consume food he couldn't have. He died the same day he received his eighth grade diploma. Ina believed Nelson starved himself to death.
On June 13, 1932, Ina married George Armour, with whom she attended high school. The two dated for three years before marrying. They obtained a house near family members and painted and papered it. George sold his hogs for $500 and the couple traveled to Charleston to buy five rooms of furniture plus two wool carpets.
At their wedding, they moved her mother's piano three miles in a flatbed truck for the ceremony. Her friend Eugenia Grote, whom she met in college and who remained a lifelong friend, stood up with the couple along with Ina's brother Andrew.
The couple farmed and raised livestock, sold cream, dressed chickens and eggs until a friend of George's suggested he go to Tuscola for a machinist course.
When he finished the class, they left their son Dale with grandparents to finish first grade in the same one-room schoolhouse Ina had taught in and gone to school as a youngster.
The two headed with youngest son Dwane to Indianapolis to find work. Later, the couple would laugh about George walking through the alleys in Indianapolis, where he was told machinists worked, applying for jobs. He told Ina how friendly the women were who knocked on their windows and beckoned him to come in. He always declined as he didn't think he had time to visit. The two learned later this was the "red light district" of the city.
They moved to their farm in Hendricks County near Hazelwood around 1940. Ina lived there into her 90s. George died in 1983, one year after the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Ina spent many hours working in her son Dale's greenhouse business near Hazelwood.
"She loved flowers. She always had a big garden and lots of flowers," said Dale. "She was always working in the greenhouse with us," he added.
Someone wrote in a tribute to her at an earlier birthday.
"Her yard is an example of her dedication. It cannot be described merely as a hobby, but as her commitment to display God's beautiful creations."
Ina and George were foster parents to over 30 children while living on the farm. And Ina remained close to several of them. One of them, Patty Weddle Williams, purchased the family farm when Ina moved to an assisted care facility and later to Hickory Creek at Sunset.
Her laughter and fun loving personality made her popular in her community. She volunteered many hours at the annual Hazelwood Fish Fry, Community Circle and Volunteer Fire Department Ladies' Auxiliary.
"She had a Christmas party every year where she would keep two suitcases under the tree. One had men's clothes and one had women's. She would make everyone dress up in the opposite sex's clothes. She always had Santa visit during her parties. She always had fun even when working hard," said Dwane.
After moving to Hickory Creek, she would visit other residents and straighten out their drawers. She remained busy even as her health declined. She can no longer speak, but her smile is just as bright.
"She still giggles all the time," smiled Dale.
She was born eight years into a century that started with steam-powered ships and ended with the space shuttle. Horses and other pack animals, the basic form of personal transportation for thousands of years, were replaced by automobiles within the span of a few decades.
Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology (especially the Internet) put the world's knowledge at the disposal of nearly everyone in most industrialized societies.
And this lovely, intelligent woman was witness to it all. She received a letter congratulating her on this milestone birthday from President George Bush and one from NBC television's Willard Scott.
On her 50th wedding anniversary, she received a card from then President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. Her sons even found a postcard from President Eisenhower in her safe.
Still, through the wars, the politics, the discoveries, the medical improvements, new science and technology, the most important thing for Ina Armour has always been her family.
They live nearby and as far away as Florida, but they remain close and devoted to their mother, grandmother, aunt and foster mother. As they surrounded her on the momentous day she turned 100, her family hoped this beautiful lady who has lived and relished life will have many more joyful years to spend with her wonderful family.