McGuiness Reveals Lessons Learned In 105 Years of Life

Special to the Times-Junction

Life is such a precious thing, and it is often times taken for granted for its beauty. To live 50 years is quite a feat, but to live an entire century is almost unfathomable.

For Henrietta McGuiness who is celebrating her 105th birthday today on Oct. 27, it is not a big deal. "It just feels like another day," she said.

This is simply McGuiness being herself, and it is something people would expect to hear from such a modest woman who dedicated her life serving others as an elementary school teacher.

McGuiness has seen the world change time and time again over the course of the past century. She is full of facts and information that would make a historian intrigued because she is essentially a walking encyclopedia.

Jennifer Milano, McGuiness' niece, remembered fond times of looking through recipe books with her aunt and her aunt having a story about every recipe in the book. "It was amazing to me how she had a story about everything," Milano said.

When you have lived on this earth as long as McGuiness has, the stories tend to accumulate over the years. One such story McGuiness recalled was the founding of Celeryville.

She said she remembers hearing the story growing up about how her father, Stouffer Kruger, was one of the three founders of Celeryville. She said her father and the other two men were immigrants from the Netherlands who came to America to better themselves.

They discovered the muckin the late 1800's and began farming the fertile soils in the area, she said. McGuiness said her mother also came from the Netherlands and met her father in Celeryville.

McGuiness was born in 1909 in Plymouth where she has resided her entire life, except for going away to college for a brief time, she noted. "Plymouth has always been my home."

McGuiness graduated from New Haven High School in 1928, then decided to go to college and attended Ohio University where she received her teaching certification in 1930.

"I had two sisters that were teachers so I was around it and I always got along with kids real well," she said.

McGuiness went right to work after college as a teacher at Plymouth and Shiloh elementary schools, where she taught fifth through eighth grades for a couple of years, as well as third through fourth grades for several more years.

"I knew from the time I was a little girl that I wanted to be a teacher. I used to sit in my bedroom upstairs in my home and pretend I was playing teacher," she said as she chuckled and a smile lit up her face.

After four years of teaching, McGuiness said she settled down and married the love of her life, Kenneth "Mack" McGuiness in 1934. Once she got married, the school relieved her of her duties as a teacher because the school did not want married women to work.

"This was during the Depression years, and a lot of men were out of work, so they took precedence and very few married women got by," she explained.

It would be 17 long years before McGuiness was presented with an opportunity to be a teacher again, she said. During her extended layoff, she and her husband bought a home in Plymouth and started a family.

The couple had one son, Dennis McGuiness, who preceded his mother in death on August 11, 2014. During World War II, many American men were called to fight and were sent over seas to join the war leaving the home front with available jobs across the country. McGuiness said during the war, opportunity came knocking on her door when

Plymouth schools offered her a teaching position teaching sixth grade.

"They asked me if I would go back to teaching, and I said I hadn't kept up with my certifications or anything," she recalled. "They said ok we'll take care of that."

McGuiness would go on to teach for 30 years all together, 26 of which came following the war. Her husband, who worked for Empire Detroit Steel Mill in Mansfield, preceded her in death in 1968, forcing McGuiness to become a self-reliant and independent woman in her later years.

McGuiness would go on to retire from teaching in 1975. She said she liked to keep busy in her spare time by taking care of her home and lawn when she was not enjoying her retirement by traveling across the United States. She said she went on her first trip in 1976 when she went to Hawaii with nine others from Shelby, Plymouth, and Shiloh. McGuiness said there were several people she traveled with over the years in a group which became known as the Ohio 8 because they would collaborate on trips with each other and then travel together.

One of her fondest trips, she recalled, was when she was fortunate enough to travel to her parents' native country the Netherlands and visit where her family originated.

When asked what she thought has changed most in the world over the course of her lifetime, McGuiness said simply small town America.

"I can't explain it," she said. "It doesn't look right to see all the stores closed and there is nothing uptown anymore."

McGuiness has two grandchildren, one in Arizona and one in Georgia, and five great grandchildren. Milano is McGuiness' closest living relative and has been taking care of her aunt the past 12 years. After her husband's death, McGuiness said she benefited by learning to become independent. She said with pride that she was able to drive until she was 93 years old.

McGuiness' secret to living a life with such longevity is quite simple, live a clean and healthy lifestyle and stay active.

"I just always ate what I wanted to eat and I always kept busy and working," she said. "I lived a clean life, no smoking or drinking, and I was independent."

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