Some people may think that Esther Groneman, 99, of rural Lincolnville has lived a boring life. She never learned to drive, wasn’t socially involved except for church, and never took a vacation during her 54-year marriage to her husband, the late Arthur A. Groneman. What’s more, she spent almost her entire life within a one-mile radius.
She has no regrets. She said she has had a good life. She found fulfillment in working together with her husband to provide for the needs of their family.
They had four children: Lois, Vida, Art W., and Nancy. Art W. farms the land and lives a half-mile away with his wife, Kandi. Lois is single and cares for her mother in the same house where her mother has lived for the past 78 years. Vida and her husband live in Hutchinson. Nancy lives in Emporia, where she teaches at Emporia State University.
Groneman was born Esther Krause and spent most of her youth on a farm less than a mile from where she has spent her adult life.
She and Art A., a neighbor boy, were married in June 1935. As was typical back then, they had a garden, chickens, and milk cows. They sold as many as 90 dozen eggs a week to the local food store to pay for groceries. They canned beef and chicken. They also raised ducks. Duck was the meat of choice on holidays.
Groneman remembers the time in the late 1930s when they bought an icebox. Big squares of ice were delivered twice a week. She said the icebox made it much easier to preserve fresh produce such as butter and milk. Previously, a cellar under the house was the coolest spot.
Groneman also helped her husband in the field. She recalled one year when she helped him shuck corn, twisting the ears off the tall plants and tossing them into a high-sided wagon. She said Art W. was four or five years old and rode in a little red wagon hooked to the back of the big wagon.
The farm got electricity in 1946.
“The girls took turns turning the bedroom light on and off,” she recalled.
Using a treadle machine, Groneman sewed all of the girls’ dresses until they learned to sew for themselves. At first, the dresses were made from feed sacks printed with colorful designs. They would go to the local feed store where the girls would pick out the sacks with the prints they wanted. The sacks were full of chicken feed. Groneman said it took about three empty sacks to make a dress.
Lois said her mother got ideas for dresses from catalogs and made her own patterns. She also did a lot of hand quilting and piecing.
Groneman lost her husband in 1989. With Lois’s help, she continues to maintain a garden, including a few fruit trees, and enjoys growing a variety of flowers.
Groneman looks young for her age, belying that fact that she will be 100 years old on Dec. 18. Other than taking blood pressure medication and an occasional nitroglycerin tablet for chest pain, she remains relatively healthy. She has good enough eyesight to read and watch TV, and can still hear one-on-one without hearing aids. Using a cane or a walking stick, she likes to get outside and take walks whenever the weather permits. She sometimes goes shopping with her daughters.
Groneman is the last surviving sibling out of a family of 10. She said she does not know why she is living so long, although she had several sisters who lived into their 90s.
“Some people might think I’ve lived so long because I never had to work, but that’s not it,” she said. “I worked hard my whole life and I got a lot of exercise.”
Her children and several of her six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and several step-grandchildren will be coming to the farm Dec. 14 to celebrate her birthday.
“I never thought I would live to be 100,” she said, “and I haven’t gotten there yet.”
She said she doesn’t look ahead. She takes life one day at a time and is content to be living in her own home.