By: Roxy Ekberg
Jean Fischer, known around town as “Grandma Jean,” celebrated her 100th birthday on May 18th. Friends and family honored the occasion at the Wakefield Fire Hall, with over 200 guests attending the celebration.
“I’ve had my share of birthdays,” Jean joked. The family made a memory book filled with pictures and guests’ signatures. The book is placed lovingly in her room at the Wakefield Care Center.
Jean Fischer was the oldest girl of eight siblings. She has raised three children, chased after 10 grandkids, and spoiled 27 great-grandchildren.
She reflected on her duties for her family, “grandma could you do this and grandma could you do that, you know what, grandma can do that.” Her advice to these youngsters is to “keep at it, keep working, do what you can do, and love one another.” With a century’s worth of wisdom, Jean revealed that the secret to a long and happy life is “work.”
And work she did. For seven years, Jean taught at the rural school in Wakefield. Walking a mile and a half to teach, she was in charge of carrying cobs in to make a fire every morning. The school consisted of 10 or 12 students, depending on the year, typically each in a different grade. “There could be a 2nd grader or an 8th grader,” Jean recalled, “I had to teach everything, every class, every subject, every grade.” Then, she returned to work on the farm. Milking cows twice a day by hand, “It was work, you earned all your money and you didn’t make much,” Jean said with a laugh.
Over the years, Jean experienced one of the biggest shifts in society: the implementation of electricity into work and everyday life changed things for the better. “It got more modern, at first we didn’t have electricity. We had to be at it, no rest for the wicked and the righteous die young,” asserted Jean. Things became more automated and useful, altering life on the farm. Then, Jean took a job keeping book for the city. “I’ll tell you, bookwork got easier not because I got older but because I let the kids tell me what they learned,” Jean remembered. For 20 years, she continued bookkeeping, until she helped run the bowling alley and skating rink.
Looking back on her 100 years of life, Jean stated there “wasn’t a dull moment.” Jean never kept a bucket list and doesn’t regret it. “I didn’t have time. I did what I could do, family is more important. I had to see that they were taken care of. I enjoyed that more than going out and having a good time.” She found adventure in every day, her biggest adventure was “day by day. You never know what the day will bring.”
Jean loved attending baseball games at Graves Park. Up until recently, she came to every home game, supporting the maroon and white. “You miss the people, you can just tell the person that will do something great,” she recalled. Now, she follows the team by listening to the radio.
After a century of living, Jean stated, “There are days you didn’t think you’d make it. But you had to…you got to keep working.”
Having compiled 100 years of insights and experiences, all of Wakefield could all take a page out of Jean Fischer’s book.