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Schrader: ​Farming is her way of life for 97 years

Teens today would pay big money for Jeanne Pritchard’s torn and battered blue jeans. She wears out about five pairs a year, mostly in the knees from weeding her extensive garden plots of flowers and vegetables around the farm where she has lived since 1947.

After high school, she went to floral arts school in Chicago, then came back and worked for DeKalb Greenhouse, then Johnson’s in Sandwich. After marrying Earle Pritchard (now deceased) in 1941, she has spent the rest of her life farming. She has two sons, Don and Bob, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

In remarkably good health for a woman
97 years old she said she has no regular doctor, takes no medicine and still climbs ladders, even though at age 92 she fell off one and broke her femur. That happened after dark about 9 p.m.

Asked the usual question, ‘To what does she owe her longevity,’ she said, “It’s because the good Lord had me working out in the fields and now the yard,” which she still does from morning to dusk. Her favorite foods: roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy, plus the vegetables from her garden.

Over the years, she has taught Sunday school at three churches: St. Paul’s Evangelical (now United Church of Christ) in Hinckley, the Pierce E.U.B. Church and the Foursquare Gospel Church in DeKalb. She also served as Sunday school superintendent at St. Paul’s. Another outside activity of hers has been giving demonstrations through Home Extension on floral arranging, furniture refinishing and making pine cone wreaths. Her son, Bob (now a state representative), said she does a fine job of sewing, too. He and his brother wore many shirts and pajamas she made for them from colorful feed sacks during their early years.

When they operated the 200-acre farm, she and Earl raised Black Angus cattle, pigs and chickens. They used to get up every day at
4:30 a.m. to get all the work done before dark. Now her grandson runs the farm.

Any favorite TV shows? She doesn’t really have any, as she spends evenings now reading farm magazines and religious literature.

Although she drove tractors for many years, she said she now limits her driving to the riding mowers. She owns two of them, so she never has to stop when one runs out of gas.

I could see she was anxious to get back to work, sitting astride her Toro mower with the engine still idling. As I was leaving, she mentioned that it takes her nine hours to mow everything around the farm. She even mows along the road and down in the ditches.

I felt kind of sheepish, heading back home where the lawns and weeding are all done for me. But then again, I am getting up there in age, only 20 years younger than my interview subject. And I take four kinds of medicine for what ails me. I didn’t mention all that to Mrs. Pritchard, though; she’d think I was a real wimp.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. His past columns can be found on his website

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