Advice for the Traveling Suitcase from a 107 year old

What contribution did the Oldest Living Resident of DeKalb County pack in the Traveling Suitcase?  ADVICE.

Last month, October I headed to Wesley Healthcare in Auburn with the traveling suitcase to meet Ethel Chapman who just recently celebrated her 107th Birthday.  I noticed the balloon in her room was “customized” with the numbers 107! I guess that isn’t a typical birthday number on balloons!  Ethel Balloon

I feel very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to meet Ethel, she passed away November 9th.  Ethel gave me some great advice and I got to hear about her favorite memories of DeKalb County! In honor of Ethel, I’d like to share what she shared with me.  

Ethel may have thought I was moving in at first, with my Traveling Suitcase in hand, but then realized I was there to talk and learn about her and her experiences in DeKalb County.

View photos:  Flickr Photos

Ethel had been in the area for 30 years total.  Jo Sawyers, her sister, explained “when first coming to the area in 1972 she was to train a manager at a Newberry’s Variety Old Dime Store,” once located in downtown Auburn between the current Little Sprouts and PNC Bank.  Ethel worked in the shop with Jo and they eventually moved to Michigan in 1981. Ethel tried to retire 6 times, but she always went back to work!  Maybe it is my experience in retail, but I found it interesting as they shared how rewarding business was for them. They received a trip as a bonus if they brought 18% to the bottom line in sales. They received a trip, $1000 in spending money and a bonus, if they brought 20%.  Ethel and Jo brought 26-28% to the bottom line so they did a lot of traveling! They eventually made it back to reside in Auburn in 1991. 

 What did Ethel say some of her favorite things about DeKalb County were?

I wondered why, out of all the places she has traveled and lived, did she love DeKalb County?

“The people,” Ethel answered.  “From day one,” she shared, “the people have always been friendly, and I never felt like a stranger.”

How does she stay in good health? Staying busy, sounded like the answer, as we talked more. Ethel and Jo joined a walking club through the DeKalb Health Hospital and would walk 3 miles every day.  The sisters got their photo taken with State Senator Dennis Kruse at a party he held for Ethel when she turned 90 years old.  

I asked, “How else does one keep good health to live a long life?”  Ethel agreed with her sister Jo as she said, “babysitting,” for the answer.  I was informed, “if people would only realize there are a million little ones out there that need love, involvement in their lives can make such a difference.”  Ethel and Jo were raised to stay busy, never be bored, and work hard. Ethel was the oldest of 10 kids in her family.

Ethel had been at Wesley for 7 years.  She was honored this year to ride in a 1936 Auburn Automobile in the parade for the DeKalb County Free-Fall Fair in Auburn.

 “People just don’t realize all that is here in DeKalb County,” Jo exclaimed.  “When we were first here there were only a couple museums, now there are so many museums plus other attractions!”   

I will journey on, with the Traveling Suitcase, to explore these attractions!  

I am thankful I got the chance to meet Ethel and her sister Jo.  I got some great tips from them, including how to stay healthy in order to live a long life!

I returned to Wesley to express my sympathy to Jo and I found her doing crafts with the residents. She is there twice a week and has been doing crafts for many years with the residents I learned.  This reminded me of their advice to stay busy!  Jo and I enjoyed talking about Ethel and her life and Jo shared about Ethel’s love for music. Ethel was trained as a concert pianist, and would play for silent movies and many churches. 

“What is one song that makes you always think of your sister when you hear it?” I asked.

 Jo responded, “I’ll Fly Away, an old hymn that Ethel played beautifully with life in it.”


About Visit DeKalb County

Welcome to the official blog of the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau. Nestled in the North East Corner of Indiana are ten communities that all share a common bond. And that bond is DeKalb County. Our job at the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau is to showcase all of the experiences the county has to offer and one of the many ways we do that is by blogging. Each of our blogs tells a different story of DeKalb County and we hope that by sharing these stories and events it will encourage people from all over the world to visit the place we call home.
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