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Velte reflects on 100 years

Arlyce Velte celebrated her 100th birthday, She still lives on her own and remains active. Bert Lehman Photo

She worked until she was 93

By Bert Lehman

When Arlyce Velte celebrated her 100th birthday in mid-January at the Clintonville Community Center, almost 100 people showed up.

She said she was surprised by the turnout, especially since there was a snowstorm on the day of the party.

“There were lots of people,” Velte said. “It was the most wonderful birthday. There were such beautiful decorations and such.”

She said the birthday celebration was extra special because Clintonville residents Rusty Mitchell, Ben Huber and his wife, and Mitchell’s sister performed a half-hour program for the guests in attendance.

“They put on such a wonderful show. It was good for the people,” she said. “It gave them a chance to laugh and relax before the food. Then it was just visiting.”
Even though it was a great celebration, Velte humbly told the party planners they shouldn’t have gone through all the trouble to plan the party.

“They said everybody doesn’t get to be 100 (years old),” Velte said.

Early years

Velte grew up in the town of Bear Creek and graduated from Clintonville High School at the age of 17. She worked at the Four-Wheel Drive in Clintonville for a short amount of time after high school.

“I worked in the cost department. I worked on a comptometer. I recorded invoices,” she said. “That was during the war years. My dad, like many farmers, worked at the Four-Wheel Drive nights and they gave my dad some type of a paper to bring home and asked if I would like to come in and work. I guess I did good enough in school. I didn’t go to apply (for the job), they came after me.”

She said she got married in 1943 and moved to rural Clintonville to farm with her husband because her husband’s parents wanted to get off the farm. This ended her time at FWD.

While farming with her husband, she said she did farm work that needed to be done, including driving tractor and cleaning the barn and chicken coop. She even had an egg-delivery route.

“People came to the farm for eggs and they would come at very inopportune times,” Velte said. “It got to be so many, that I said I’d deliver them. It got almost out of hand. That was fun too because I got to talk to them and shoot the breeze.”

She and her husband had two children, a son and a daughter. Both are now retired. Her son and his wife adopted a girl from Chile and a boy from the Philippines, so Velte has two grandchildren, who are now adults.

Velte and her husband lived on the farm until 1984, when they moved to Embarrass.

Tragedy strikes

In 1985. Velte and her husband were driving to a church supper when she said a large tree branch fell and smashed their car across from the former Eversons store in Clintonville.

“It happened on a Sunday night and he died on a Tuesday,” she said. “Then, all of a sudden, here I am, alone. I am an only child and my kids were in Stevens Point and Illinois, but I got through it. Sometimes when you ask God for things, the answer is ‘no.’”

Working until 93

To help make ends meet, Velte said her children encouraged her to get a job, so she went to Job Services.

“All they offered me was wrapping meat,” Velte said. “That didn’t really appeal to me and one of the girls there said, ‘Why don’t you stop at Pine Manor on your way home?’ I went there and talked to the social worker and she said, ‘One of our employees has to quit work because she has to take care of her mother-in-law.’ So, I got the job right away.”

Velte said she worked at Pine Manor nursing home (now The Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center) for 9 1/2 years. She said she was a “playgirl” there because she played with the residents.

“They were younger than I was,” she said. “Here I’m in good shape and they’re confined. And I said, “if I have to fall on my face to make them laugh, I would. It was really my calling. I now realize that.”

After moving to Appleton for a while, Velte said she returned to Clintonville and worked at Pine Manor for another 10 years before she retired at the age of 93.
Velte said she had a good reason for working until she was 93, “because I liked it.”

She added, “I felt like I was doing something good. Having somebody joke with them. Thursday night was dance nights and I did it on roller skates. You could really make headways with them, and they got a big bang out of it. We even took residents to the casino. It was meeting with people and I guess I like to talk, and they needed somebody to give them attention. Plus, I got paid.”

She said she probably worked four hours a day, five days a week.

Because the work became tiresome and she was losing her hearing, she decided to retire at 93.

Staying active

Velte may be 100 years old, but she said she prefers to stay active. She still lives on her own, and said members of the community help her get to appointments and run errands for her.

She still plays on two dart ball teams.

“I love the game,” she said. “I’ve been doing that for about 45 years. When my husband played, they needed a substitute, so I got into the game. I’d practice out in the barn. I play on the Christus team on Monday nights, it’s a church league. And on Wednesday afternoons I play in a senior citizens league.”

Following the Chicago Cubs is also a passion for Velte. She’s also a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, and has started watching the Virginia men’s college basketball games because Tony Bennett is the coach. Bennett’s dad, Dick, is originally from Clintonville.

She admits she hasn’t done it for a while, but she does like to embroider, as well as play Dominos and card games.

“In the summertime I have flowers on the porch, hanging baskets, so I have to take care of them,” she added.

When asked what the secret is to reaching 100, Velte replied, “You are what you eat. On a farm, you ate good stuff. I never drank and I didn’t smoke. I was brought up not to do those things, and I think I’m almost normal. I don’t have to do that to have a good time.

“And to top it all off, I guess God has been good to me. I have had things to weather, hardships, whatever, and I’ve come out on top. I wouldn’t say there are any secrets. The important thing is what you eat. That’s what keeps your body going.”

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