Nebraska Farmer Celebrates Her 106th Birthday On Christmas Day
Published for NET News-Nebraska's NPR and PBS Station
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Christmas is just around the corner and a woman from Meadow Grove, a small village near Norfolk, will be celebrating her 106th birthday on Christmas Day.
Lenora Kuchar is the oldest citizen in Meadow Grove. She was born on Dec. 25, 1914, five miles south of Meadow Grove. She said she’s seen and lived through it all.
Her mother died of the Spanish flu a day before her 4th birthday. She walked two miles to school everyday from her farm home or her family would take her on a horse and buggy.
Her uncle fought in World War I and her brother and husband’s brother were deployed to the Philippines and New Guinea in World War II. Lenora said she would send them cookies with corn syrup, because they couldn’t buy sugar. But to keep the cookies from crumbling, they would weld the top off the can shut before mailing them.
She said they enjoyed the cookies.
"Well they sure did, but they said they had so much difficulty getting the can open. That was funny," she laughed.
Lenora lived on farms for most of her life and did housework for $2 a week before she married her husband and ran their own farm.
"I met him at a barn dance, believe it or not," she said. "In those days, they had barn dances every Saturday night at a place about 10 miles south of Meadow Grove. Everybody would go there to dance. I met him at that place. I was 21 already. He was about three years older than me. And he died from cancer in 1973, I believe it was."
Lenora never remarried. She said she supposed she was “stuck on him.”
She also still remembers when the town was busy and had a lot of stores.
"This town had a hotel and they had a confectionery store," she said. "They had newspapers and everything in the early days."
Eventually the town’s high school was consolidated with another one in the next town over. Lenora said all that’s left is a bar, library, post office, and a little bank.
Despite this, she says Meadow Grove’s history is important. She wrote two books about the community and converted an original post office into a town museum.
"Oh, well I would never leave. I've lived here all my life. I'm a farmer. I'm here and everything and I wouldn't leave. I love the town," Lenora said.
She loves the town so much that she’s considered the community’s historian. Gini Goracki, manager of the town’s federal credit union, said Lenora can tell you anything you need to know about Meadow Grove.
"This town is only 300 people, so everybody here knows Lenora," she said. "Christmas is her special holiday because, of course, she was born on Christmas Day. Her yard has lots of decorations out there, a lot of Christmas lights, like a manger or snow man, lights all over."
When visitors come to the credit union, asking where someone is buried or wanting to remember their childhood memories of the town, they send them to Lenora’s house.
Goracki said Lenora still has an excellent memory.
"She still lives in her own house. It's just her," she said. "She has a lady that comes and checks on her during the day, but other than that, nope, it's just her."
Today, Lenora’s granddaughter runs the farm and Lenora stays at a house in the town alone. She spends a lot of time watching Husker games and NASCAR races on her living room couch.
"‘What is my secret?’ they say, and I say ‘I live one day at a time and I eat five fruits or vegetables every day and I don't smoke and I don't drink.’ That's my secret," she said.
She said her cup of orange juice in the morning is her first fruit of the day.
Lenora has three children, four grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. Normally on Christmas day, her children and grandchildren would come to her house, open white elephant presents, and eat together.
"But now we can't do it anymore. We can't do these things with this virus going around so we had to give it all up," she said. "I wish that it would be better so that they could all come and see me, but we can't do all that."
However, Lenora said it’s not too bad this year. Her daughter will still visit and bring her a homemade angel food cake and she receives many birthday cards from the citizens of Meadow Grove.
“I'm so grateful that I can be home, that I can be here.. that means a lot to me," she said.
Lenora’s Christmas wish is for things to get better so her family can visit and bake cookies with her again.