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Helen Grosvenor reflects on 100 years life

Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 11:21 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, May 20, 2014 9:56 p.m. CST

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Helen Grosvenor will soon join a very rare and exclusive club. This club is extremely difficult to get into and takes quite a while to join. Some of its most famous members are George Burns and Bob Hope. In a short while, Grosvenor will become a distinguished member of the centenarian club.

“It’s not the same world at all,” Grosvenor, who will soon turn 100, said. “On the eastside of the square, the road was all dirt, and there was a boardwalk.”

Grosvenor was born in Rushville west of Kellogg and received her education in the Newton school system. In a journal she wrote:

“My first school was Washington School, and Flossie McCall was the principal,” she wrote. “I liked her very much. Some fun times were spent (there) with groups of friends.”

Her youth was filled with an eclectic mix of adventures. She participated in a talent show at the Iowa Theatre when she was 7, and she modeled clothes on the Capitol Theatre stage and for Gottner’s dress shop. She even posed next to washing machines for Maytag.

“I wasn’t a straight model at all, just in segments” Grosvenor said. “That was just a short time for that.”

“She got to keep the clothes,” her daughter, Joyce Ringgenberg added. “She got to wear them for her high school graduation, because you probably didn’t have the money to buy clothes like that for graduation, huh Mom?”

“Oh my, no,” Grosvenor said. “I had two dresses to wear to school.”

While growing up, Grosvenor’s father died from gangrene after accidentally being shot in the back. Her family was living in Minnesota at the time, but they came back to Iowa following the accident. Once they got back here, her mother began helping her aunt and uncle run their boarding house, which led to even more adventurous for her.

“We again had ‘boarders and roomers,’ Grosvenor wrote. “One in particular was Ralph Paraut, a middle-weight wrestler, who owned an open cock-pit airplane. During fair time, he would take people up for a ride.”

“During a lull in business he told me to climb in and we would go up,” continued Grosvenor who had never ridden in a plane before. “When we got up to a certain height he started doing all kinds of stunts, the barrel roll and others. When we came down my mother was waiting and let him know that she was rather upset and not to ever do that again!”

As she got older Grosvenor cut down on her adventures and became a wife and mother. She and her late husband Delmar bought a 40 acre farm, although both of them grew up in town. The couple was married for 66 years and kept their farm up were they raised their two daughters Joyce and Judy.

“We had cows, we had chickens, we had,” Grosvenor began.

“You had pigs,” Ringgenberg said. “I hated the pigs.”

“We grew corn, oats and soybeans,” Grosvenor finished.

While the mother and daughter talked a bit about the farm, Ringgenberg pointed out that a lot of the paintings in the room were actually done by her mother. She noted that her mother had always been creative and that her mother also made all of her and her sisters dress growing up and even sew her wedding dress.

Grosvenor credits God for her long life, but her daughter added a few other things she believes helped out.

“She has lived well,” Ringgenberg said. “She never smoke, never drank, she lived a straight and narrow life. She’s kind and caring and she watched what words she said and spoke. She also kept very busy.”

Although she is getting ready to turn 100 on May 7 Grosvenor rolls with the times. She emails all of her grandchildren and has her own laptop. She and her daughter also like to joke around with each other. Some recent health problems haven’t even deterred their joking around.

“I said, ‘Mom, do you feel like you’re dying?” Ringgenberg asked her mother after a recent scare. “She said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I’ve never done that before.”

Staff Writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, Ext. 426, or trushing@newtondailynews.com

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