Celma Birdsall celebrates 109 years

David Birdsall, Kay Chickering and Larry Birdsall help their mother Celma celebrate her 109th birthday at Good Samaritan Center in Ottumwa Friday.

OTTUMWA — Celma Birdsall moved to Good Samaritan Center in Ottumwa when she was 106, according to her son David. That was 2014.

Friday Celma celebrated her 109th birthday with family and friends at a party thrown by the Good Samaritan staff.

“I won’t be 109 till Monday,” Celma informed everyone before they sang happy birthday.

Born in 1908 in Hampton, Iowa, Celma married Ken Birdsall in 1932. He passed away in 1986.

The couple moved to Floris with their three children. Daughter Kay Chickering and son David live in the Bloomfield area. Larry lives in Ankeny. “I’m the baby at 79,” he said.

“We were on a small farm near Floris,” said David. Their neighbor, Ralph Glattfelder, was the postmaster. When Glattfelder died, Celma took the post, David said. Celma held the position for 28 years, she said Friday.

“They made her retire because of an age limit,” David said. Celma was 70 when she was forced to step down.

“After that, she did a lot of going to retired postmaster’s meetings,” said her son. “And they got to go a lot of places, wherever the convention was.” The conventions even took her off the mainland to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Celma enjoyed gardening while in her own home, and took walks as long as she was able, said David. “She would walk about four miles a day. That was her goal. Four miles a day.” She walked around Floris, he said, and on gravel roads and the highway.

“Out to where my sister lived was two miles,” David said. Celma often walked there and back.

Eventually Celma began having trouble walking without aid. “She walked with a three-wheeler,” David said. “She called that her jalopy.” Actually, she had two, he said. A larger one for outdoors and a small one for use inside.

“When she moved here she brought the smaller [walker],” David said, and walked swiftly around the facility. “She never did anything slowly,” he said.

When Celma moved to Good Samaritan for physical therapy, she knew it was a permanent move, David said. “She adjusted really fast.” She welcomed so many visitors that she eventually switched to a private room.

Celma, a former pianist, loves music. Now confined to a wheelchair, she spends her days putting together jigsaw puzzles and doing crossword puzzles. “We can’t get her interested in Sudoku,” David said.

Many of the people who helped Celma celebrate her birthday Friday are frequent visitors, David said. “Most of these folks are Chickerings. Kay has seven children.”

Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and friends from Floris Baptist Church visited with Celma as she tapped her fingers on the table and sang with the Center’s pianist, enjoying her last couple of days being 108.

Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at wwhitaker@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.

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