Kearney centenarian talks life as homesteader, growing up during Great Depression

Kearney’s Gwendean Scott, center, poses with friends including Kearney Senior Center managers Ken at Kathy Meinert, pictured at Scott’s left, during a 100th birthday party the center held for her. Scott said she loves the senior center and wishes more people took advantage of the resources it provides.

KEARNEY — While celebrating triple digits during a birthday party in her honor at Kearney Senior Center, Gwendean Scott said her 100 years have given her a lot to reflect on.

Scott’s long life began on a farm in Sullivan County. Scott was one of five daughters on the family farm.

“We lived on a small acreage and raised our own meat and grew vegetables and things like that in the garden to eat,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of innovations and I think the biggest was when electricity came to the rural areas. … In 1938 we got it in our area. We had a security light in our yard, and that was a big thing because then we felt safe.”

While many today cannot imagine a time before indoor plumbing and television, Scott was well into her adult years before having either, saying she was married before having an indoor toilet and 30 when her family got a TV.

“And we bought ours used. We were the first ones in our area to have one, so people would come over to watch it. It’s funny because the picture was so snowy you could hardly see the picture,” she said.

In her early years, like many who grew up through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, life was hard, forcing families to be resilient and self-reliant. Before the Depression hit, Scott said her family lost its farm and her father moved them to Pennsylvania, where he found work as a coal miner.

“He didn’t do that for long because then we went to Wyoming because of the lure of the free land they did back then,” said Scott on her family becoming homesteaders.

“We got a section of land. You had to stay there for five consecutive years, but then you got the land and didn’t have to pay for it. We got about 160 acres or so,” she said.

Further misfortune struck her family when Scott’s father was tragically killed in an accident when he was 41, leaving her mother alone to care for five children at a time when a woman’s employment options outside the home were limited.As an adult, Scott said she always worked, not retiring until she was 75.

“I worked on the farm until I was middle-aged and was a nurse until I got too old to lift people on their backs,” she said of her medical career at Wright Memorial Hospital in Trenton.

“I loved to talk and visit with people. I was often the only other person they’d see all day. It was my favorite job I ever had,” she said.While her life began as a struggle, Scott said she has known a lot of love that includes a daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I’ve had such a wonderful life, it’s hard to really pin down anything except the birth of my daughter. She is the greatest joy of my life,” she said of Marquetta Riggs of Liberty. “I really enjoy other people and love my acceptance of Jesus Christ. People are my life.”

Another of those loved ones who blessed her life came much later, when Scott married her second husband J. Noel Scott of Kearney when he was 80 and she was 79. The pair had been high school sweethearts but hadn’t seen each other for 63 years before courting for 15 months after the death of her first husband.

“From the moment we went on that first date, it was as if no time had passed. He has been deceased for five years now and we were still sweethearts when he died. People say marriage is hard work, but we didn’t really have to,” she said.

At a spry 100, while she quit driving last year, Scott doesn’t seem to be slowing down, keeping an active social life that includes going to the Kearney Senior Center Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“It’s a wonderful place. I wish more people would take advantage of it. The people are all so welcoming and nice, the place is immaculately clean, the exercise program is great and the food is really good, too. I really can’t think of one negative thing to say about it,” she said, adding she appreciates the work local Boy Scouts do at the center, including building flower boxes around the flagpole.

Kathy Meinert, who oversees the senior center operations with her husband Ken, said Scott is a wonderful woman with a wealth of history.

“She’s just got a incredible mind that is still so sharp,” she said. “She’s a very interesting person and has a wonderful story. She’s the sweetest thing.”

Scott attributes her long life full of good health to eating plenty, sleeping a lot and knowing her savior, Jesus Christ.

“I’m very blessed to still have my own mind at 100. My mind is as good as it ever was,” she said. “I am very fortunate for that and that I am still able to live alone. I’ve been blessed with a lot. I also try to learn something new every day.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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