ANGOLA — Since June 17, 1915, a lot has changed in the world, and most people have only read about the changes in history books.
But not Violet (Oesch) Hollopeter, who celebrated her 106 birthday on Thursday. She’s lived it.
Now living at Cameron Woods, Hollopeter remembers a lot about her childhood, growing up in Emma, and later moving to the Angola area where she raised her sons.
“I grew up in Emma and went to a one-room schoolhouse for eight years,” she said. “After that, we had to take a bus to school, and not a nice bus like the ones today.”
She then attended Shipshewana High School for four years.
“After that, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “I didn’t start college until I had been out of high school for a year.”
There weren’t many opportunities for jobs for women at the time, but Hollopeter said she had decided she needed to do something with her life.
Her older sister had gotten married, and at the time married women were frowned upon as teachers. Hollopeter said she made a casual remark to the trustee — trustees hired and fired teachers at the time — and she was hired to teach at Edon Township, which she said many nicknamed Honeyhill.
“My first year teaching, I had 42 children,” she said. “And I thought nothing of it. We all had a lot of children.”
That first year was 1936.
She had two years of college and was licensed by the state of Indiana to be a teacher.
She spent six years at Edon Township, including after she was married.
“I must have had a good reputation,” she said. “I got invited back to teach even though I was married.”
She left the profession for awhile after getting pregnant, only returning once both of her sons, Jack and Barry, were in school themselves.
“Then I thought, oh I’ll go back for a couple of years maybe,” she said.
That couple of years turned into working up until she was retirement age, this time at Pleasant Lake Elementary School. She retired at age 65.
She knew with planning to keep teaching, a bachelor’s degree would be required, so she got one through Goshen College. She then earned a master’s degree from the University of St. Francis, Fort Wayne. In addition, she was also a specialist in reading.
“I loved it,” she said. “I am very proud of my years in Pleasant Lake.”
After she and her husband had retired, Hollopeter said they’d regularly go to Florida, spending six months at a time in Estero, Florida, and then six months in Steuben County.
“When he passed away, I kept going by myself driving back and fourth,” she said. Its a drive she didn’t mind making.
Hollopeter has lived at Cameron Woods for the last couple of years and said she absolutely adores the staff, especially the manager, Brad Noyes.
“It is a wonderful place to live,” she said. “Brad and our handyman are just wonderful.”
Growing up in Emma, Hollopeter said the children would often get together in the evenings to play games with one another.
“I feel very blessed,” she said. “Emma was such a good place to grow up.”
Church was also important. As an adult, she and her family attended Mount Zion United Methodist Church on Golden Lake Road, Angola.
As she got older and could no longer drive, a friend from Fremont would stop and pick her up to take her to church.
Longevity runs in the family, at least on her mother’s side. She’s had three cousins live to 100 or older. She makes the fourth, with the first three living to 100, 106 and 107.
“My father and mother both came from large families,” she said. “My mother’s family lived a mile east of Emma and my father’s family about two miles west of Emma.”
Friends Jim and Lynne came in from Pennsylvania to celebrate her birthday with a singalong at Cameron Woods. Jim plays accordion and brought that to perform old time songs. She also received several birthday cards and phone calls, as well as at least one friendly visitor, all wishing her well on her birthday.
Her celebration continues today as her son, Barry, takes her to visit with her niece in Hillsdale, Michigan.