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Tillie Hein celebrates 100 years

Staff writer

Otillia “Tillie” Hein of Tampa was thrilled to vote Nov. 4 in the general election, just four days before her 100th birthday.

She said she has voted in every election since her 21st birthday in November 1929. The first presidential election she participated in was between Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.

(Note: The 19th amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote. Age 21 was the minimum voting age for men and women until the 26th amendment was passed in 1971, lowering the age to 18.)

She always has voted at Ramona, but the polling place was changed to Tampa in 2007.

“This is easier,” she said.

Tillie said she paid close attention to the election. She stayed up past her usual 9 p.m. bedtime to view election returns.

“I enjoyed watching it on television,” she said. “I went to bed at 11 o’clock and then I couldn’t sleep.”

Tillie hasn’t had an easy life. She raised two children by herself after her first husband, Frank Srajer, was killed in a car accident. She later remarried and lost her second husband, Jake Hein, to suspected cancer.

Since then, she has channeled her energies into activities with family and friends.

Tillie was busy this past week getting ready for company and her birthday celebration Sunday at Tampa Senior Center.

“I’m tired,” she said Thursday. “I’d love to take a nap, but I don’t think I could sleep.”

In anticipation of the arrival of her 95-year-old sister, Philothea, of Florida, who also remains active, she prepared potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and bierrocks, and her freezer was full of frozen kolaches.

Her son, Don, and his wife, Carolyn, were expected to arrive Friday along with her daughter, Delores Scott. Tillie regrets the fact that Delores’ husband, Ron, died in January.

Tillie’s strong, clear voice was filled with excitement as she told about receiving 16 cards Wednesday, 24 cards Thursday, and expecting many more.

The centenarian doesn’t seem to have slowed down much since she was profiled five years ago in the Marion County Record.

She takes pride in her appearance. She keeps her hair coifed and nails polished, and wears dresses and high-heeled shoes most of the time.

Tillie continues to help her grandson, Jim Srajer, with his farming operation, helping him move his equipment from field to field.

She said she recently spent three-and-one-half hours riding along in the combine while he harvested corn.

She lives one and one-half miles north of Tampa and is a stickler about keeping her yard clean. She rakes leaves and picks up sticks that fall from the trees.

“I’ve raked up and burned locust pods five or six times this fall,” she said.

She also is particular about her car. Keeping a car clean is difficult if one lives in the country. One recent week she washed it three times. She uses Jim’s power washer.

Tillie continues to organize outings for senior citizens living in the area and spearheads monthly distribution of commodities.

A passel of women friends and associates whom she calls the “birthday group” are down to nine from the original 15.

She also enjoys attending sports and school activities of her great-grandsons, 13-year-old Grant Srajer and 9-year-old Cole Srajer, who attend Centre schools.

A housekeeper comes once a month to vacuum the house, but other than that, Tillie manages it herself.

Tillie is thankful for good health and eyesight. She is up every morning by six-thirty or seven o’clock. Sometimes an aching back slows her down, but only briefly. She has a difficult time sitting for any length of time.

The celebration

At least 85 family members attended a catered noon meal Sunday at Tampa Senior Center.

The afternoon reception brought many well-wishers who congratulated Tillie on 100 years.

Musical entertainment was provided by a polka band of Jerry and Heather Vinduska, Gene Vinduska, and Alex Stuchlik.

Tillie delighted guests by dancing with her son Don.

“That was something!” she said later of the big event. “There were a lot of people and it was a lovely day.”

She has become a star among senior citizens in Kansas. She represented Marion County at the 2007 Senior Fair in Salina, sponsored by the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging.

She also was featured in Keynotes, a news magazine published by the agency.

Tillie seems to live in a state of perpetual anticipation.

“I’m anxious to see the crops, what the kids are doing, and what’s happening in the world,” she said. “I worry about the future and what’s going to happen to the kids.”

She has 11 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.

Last modified Nov. 12, 2008

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