Helen Howler

Centenarian celebrates birthday

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom
When Helen Howler turns 100 on April 6, the partygoers at Ely Manor will be gathering around a centenarian whose sight and hearing may be a bit frail, but whose backbone is as strong as her memory.
 
“I’m surprised I remember as much as I do,” she said.
 
She has a story or two about Prohibition-era bootlegging that raises a few eyebrows; but she’ll tell it with no regrets.
 
 “Dad was a master plumber, but nothing was being built and we had to eat,” she said. “He said he would never go on welfare, so we made beer.”
 
When the Depression hit,  travel ceased and by 15, Helen learned if you wanted anything, you had to work for it.
 
“When my father started boot­legging, he told us we couldn’t tell anyone or we would go to jail and we couldn’t have anyone over because the place smelled like beer,” she said. Helen and her sisters worked as the makeshift assem­bly line for bottling.
 
Her life has been one of hard work—which Helen credits for her longevity. That and sticking to goals, eating good food and abstaining from drinking—especially beer.
 
While the president has acknowledged her 100th birthday, getting Willard Scott to announce her birthday on the Smucker’s jelly commercial has been more difficult.
“They said they get thousands of requests a day,” said Patricia.  
 
Although she’s outlived her husbands, her sister Josephine, 95, of Lakeland, still walks, rides a bike and goes to the gym.  
 
Helen’s four children and their spouses are Thomas and Alma Lodge, John and Marilyn Lodge, Joan and Jack Havenga and Patricia and Earl Gillette. She also has 10 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
 
Some of them will be at an open house birthday celebration on Sunday, April 6, at 10 a.m. at Ely Manor. The public is invited.
 

For full story, pick up a copy of the April 3 issue of The Allegan County News or subscribe to the e-edition.

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