‘Life has been good’
Every May, The New Homestead celebrates National Nursing Home Week by recognizing the staff and residents that make The New Homestead a special place to live and work. Every resident brings his or her own unique personalities and stories to the community.
“As part of the team at The New Homestead, I am proud of what we have here in our local community: a place that can provide care to the elders in our community that have called Guthrie Center home for many years,” said administrator Hilaree Stringham. “We are fortunate to have such a wonderful facility in our community. The residents are the most fantastic part of our facility.”
In honor of National Nursing Home Week, three seniors shared their stories, memories and life advice with the Guthrie Center Times in an interview last week.
At 103 years old, Maxine Roszell is the oldest resident at The New Homestead. She will celebrate her 104th birthday on August 6, 2018. However, age has not prevented Roszell from remembering the events in her life or the people in it.
Inside her cozy room at The New Homestead, Roszell keeps the history of her family in the form of photos and books. She proudly displays genealogy books, a photo of the family farm and a photo of her grandfather, who was a Civil War veteran. In a book by her chair, she keeps track of all the birthdays and anniversaries of loved ones.
In a frame on the wall, Roszell proudly displays two blue ribbons from the county fair the year after she and her twin sister, Thelma Pauline, were born.
“We were the healthiest babies in Guthrie County,” said Roszell. “We won in 1915, and then in 1916, my twin sister passed away of pneumonia.”
Roszell grew up on her family’s farm outside of Bayard. The home was built in 1914, the year she was born, and the farm remains in the McCool family today.
Growing up, Roszell attended the McCool Country School through 8th grade before continuing high school at Bayard High School. She debated furthering her education at Iowa State University, but her first husband, Harold Bean, convinced her to marry him instead. The couple had three children, Joanne, Richard, and Barbara. After 25 years of marriage, they decided to divorce.
“He was a very good man and educated and all that, but he couldn’t share his life with anyone else,” explained Roszell.
It was then she was approached by a salesman about working as a buyer for Norman Cassidy, a retailer in Des Moines. Roszell accepted the position, which involved buying sportswear and accessories for the store.
“I just did it. I was young and crazy,” said Roszell. “I found it unusual that the stores in Des Moines would want someone from the country, but they must have been satisfied because they kept me for 21 years.”
The job involved traveling to New York City every season of the year to meet with manufactures and attend fashion shows.
“I went right to the manufacture. I went in and looked at what they were making and whether we wanted it or whether we didn’t,” she explained.
It was during her time at Norman Cassidy that Roszell met her second husband, Bernard Roszell, a widower with two children of his own. The couple married, and she raised two stepchildren, Vicki and Dennis.
When her stepchildren finished college, Roszell retired and moved to Arizona with her husband. After he passed away, she decided to move back to Guthrie County to be near relatives.
With 103 years of life experience, Roszell understands what younger generations need to do to be successful and happy in life.
“Be truthful,” she advises. “It’s very important that your word is honest.”
Margaret Clifford, 95, says the secret to living so long is simply good luck.
She grew up in Chisholm, Minnesota with her parents, Eva and Albert Helming, and two sisters, Harriet and Kathryne. While all of her friends decided to attend college in Minnesota, Clifford wanted to do something different. Her desire to explore a new area and make new friends led her to Iowa State University, where she studied food and nutrition. At ISU, she met her husband, William Clifford, and the couple was married after he completed veterinary school. Together they had three children, Elizabeth, Carol and Barbara.
They lived in Guthrie Center for a short time before moving to Henderson, Iowa for Mr. Clifford’s work. The opportunity to operate his own veterinary clinic in Guthrie Center brought the couple back to the area in the 1940s.
While she has lived in Iowa since college, Clifford says there was something special about her hometown, and she remembers what it was like growing up in Northern Minnesota.
“We practically lived on skates,” she recalled.
She remembers lots of below zero degree days, playing in the snow with neighbors and sledding. She recalls the beautiful countryside and notes that the entire town was surrounded by lakes.
One lake she remembers well is McCarthy Beach.
“It was a good place to take kids because you could walk a block out into the water, and it’d still be at your knees or waist,” she said.
With 95 years of memories, Clifford says the one that stands out is her wedding day.
“It was a small wedding on the 28th of December,” she recalled. “It was -25 degrees.”
Both Clifford and her husband came from small families, and neither had many relatives.
Clifford says her favorite thing about living at The New Homestead is feeling secure and knowing that she is well taken care of. She acknowledges that the facility is clean and well-kept and says she can’t remember a meal she didn’t like.
“The staff is very nice, and the food is great,” she said.
Clifford’s advice to younger generations is the go with the flow, take advantage of opportunities and enjoy what comes along.
“I’ve been lucky,” she said. “Life has been good.”
Betty Slaybaugh, 91, says her memory isn’t quite what it used to be, but she still remembers living in Guthrie County during “the good ol’ days.”
“You just didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “You made your own fun, but we were all so happy back then.”
Slaybaugh grew up in Guthrie County with mother, Genevieve, and father, Archie. She had two sisters, Velma and Shirley, and she remembers her uncle taking her to school at Victory Country School #2.
“My grandpa had a coal mine,” she recalled. “I’d take lunch down to them, and they had an old potbelly stove. We’d make candy and chocolate on that.”
One day, when she was about 16, Slaybaugh’s mother sent her to take something over to the neighbor’s house. The neighbor’s younger brother, Walter Slaybaugh, hid her bicycle and blamed it on another boy. He offered to help her look for it, and that’s how Slaybaugh met her husband.
“I blamed the other kid for hiding my bicycle, but he (Walter) said he’d help me, but it was him that did it,” she remembers. “He wanted to meet me.”
Walter Slaybaugh served in the Army during World War II. Slaybaugh says she wrote to him once a week.
“When he got home from the service, we got married the next week,” she said.
The couple had two sons, Ronald and Donald, and fostered a number of other children.
Slaybaugh’s experience as a foster mom began when she took in her cousin, Larry, whose mother was worried about the crowd he was hanging out with. From there, a woman approached her and asked if she would consider fostering other children as well.
“I went to pick up the two girls at Annie Wittenmyer Home because my husband couldn’t go that day,” she explained. “My mother said, ‘oh, Lord, don’t let her go alone because she’ll bring home a whole carload of them,’ and I could have.”
Slaybaugh says she fostered around five or six kids, including her cousin, Larry.
“I just like kids,” she said. “It’d break my heart when they left, but I was so tickled to think that they were getting a home.”
In her adult years, Slaybaugh also enjoyed baking and decorating wedding cakes, and she remembers making a tall cake for her son’s wedding. A photo of the cake is displayed in a shadow box on the wall outside of her room.
In addition to being a farm wife, Slaybaugh also worked in the Guthrie County Sheriff’s Department for around 20 years.
Her favorite memories include the birth of her two sons and winning a pony at the fair in her early teen years.
“I’ve had a good life,” she said. “I lived in the olden days as they called it, but everybody was happy then.”