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Advice from 107 years of living: ‘stay busy’
By Melinda Wichmann, The Journal Tribune
Jan. 26, 2023 10:01 am
When Ida (Trimpe) Strunk turned 100 years old in 2016, she said, “I won’t be here for 101.”
Seven years later, the Homestead native and Williamsburg resident is preparing to celebrate her 107th birthday on Feb. 12.
When asked the secret to living so long, she says she doesn’t know but her advice to younger generations is to “keep working, stay busy.”
Her memories are full of a lifetime spent following that advice.
Ida was born Feb. 12, 1916, the daughter of Otto and Rosina (Von Ahsen) Trimpe, south of Homestead in Iowa Township, Iowa County. The third of 11 children, Ida had four brothers and six sisters. She is the only one still living.
Her siblings and their spouses were, from oldest to youngest: Edna Trimpe (George Wetjen), Lorena Trimpe (Arnold Moennich), Paul Trimpe (Mildred Jahlas), Arnold Trimpe (Marie Jahlas), Viola Trimpe (Clyde Lemon), Esther Trimpe (Harvey Huedepohl), Ruth Trimpe (Melvin Koehn), Raymond Trimpe (Eloise Hellwedge), Alfred Trimpe (Esther Jahlas) and Luella Trimpe (Harold Barnes).
She attended nearby St. John’s Lutheran School, a one-room parochial school. When Ida was in fourth grade, a basement was dug under the schoolhouse and grades first through fourth were housed there, with the higher grades taught upstairs. About 50 kids from the area attended.
“There were a lot of big families out there,” Ida says.
She attended St. John’s School through the eighth grade and her formal education ended there.
“I didn’t go to high school,” she says. “It was too far. Conroy was six miles away and Williamsburg was 10 miles away. I would have to live in town.”
Ida recalls having one dress to wear to school and an older dress to wear at home. When she got home from school each day, she changed into her older dress.
“I wore one dress all week,” she remembers.
Ida’s oldest sister, Edna, was born in 1912 and her siblings continued to arrive through 1930. Ida helped care for her brothers and sisters as well as helping around the house and on the family farm.
“We had a big vegetable garden and we all helped. There weren’t any weeds in that garden,” Ida says, laughing. Fruit and vegetables were canned for the family pantry and a 20-gallon crock was filled with shredded cabbage for sauerkraut. Meat came from animals butchered on the farm and clothing was sewn by hand.
“Monday was wash day, Saturday was baking day,” she recalls. “Cleaning was every day.”
Keeping the house clean with so many people living there was no easy task.
“We always kept the parlor door shut. That way, if someone came to visit, it was clean,” she remembers.
The family’s home had a generator that supplied electricity. When a new pastor, Pastor Beer, arrived at nearby St. John’s Lutheran Church, he brought electric appliances with him and soon the whole neighborhood became electrified.
Ida’s brother, Paul, went to Germany to fight during World War II.
“We took a family picture before he left because we didn’t think he would come back,” she said, “but he came back.”
When Ida was 20, she moved to Cedar Rapids and went to work in the packing department at Quaker Oats. She got paid 55 cents an hour, which was considered a good wage. Before taking the job at Quaker Oats, she interviewed for a job at a laundry service that paid 21 cents an hour.
“I told them I wasn’t working for that,” she said.
She shared an apartment with several other girls in Cedar Rapids and weekends saw her returning home. She would take a bus from Cedar Rapids to Homestead, where her father would pick her up.
While living in Cedar Rapids, she met her husband, Richard “Dick” Strunk, while attending a dance at the Roosevelt Hotel. The couple dated for 10 months before he was transferred to South Dakota for his job.
“He said, ‘Why don’t we get married and then you can come with me,’” Ida remembers. The couple were married and moved around the country, living in South Dakota, Michigan, Illinois and Texas. Ida worked a variety of jobs during this time.
“My husband didn’t want me to work but we didn’t have any kids so what was I going to do? I asked him, ‘What do you want me to do — sit in a chair and look out the window all day?’ So I worked,” Ida says.
During one of her jobs, filling garden seed orders for Vaughn’s Seed Company in Chicago, Ida was assigned to fill an order that came from one of her cousins in Iowa. She put an extra bulb in the box and didn’t tell anyone.
After Dick passed away in 1990, Ida returned to Williamsburg, where she kept active with gardening and sewing. She transferred to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Williamsburg, and was an avid quilter, creating dozens of quilts over the years. She has lived at Highland Ridge for eight years.
Ida takes turning 107 in stride.
“It feels just like it did to be 106,” she says.
Ida will be honored with birthday open house from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Secret Garden Room at Highland Ridge.