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One hundred years of life is a milestone that all of us wish to reach, but very few will ever have the privilege to see.
As rare as the achievement is, even less common is seeing two local residents reach a century on this planet within a month of each other. That’s exactly what will happen when Springfield’s Loraine McMurtry has that magical 100th birthday on Oct. 3, just weeks after Leon Shewmaker of Mackville celebrated on Sept. 15.
Shewmaker has been a resident of Mackville his entire life, while McMurtry relocated to Springfield in 1937 with her late husband, D.R. McMurtry, after living in Garrard and Jessamine counties for 25 years. For anyone familiar with the history of Washington County, you already know it was quite an interesting time period in Springfield.
“We moved here in 1937 during the flood. It was terrible,” McMurtry said. “The water was over the road and caused a lot of trouble and delayed everything.”
Since then, Washington County has obviously undergone major and constant changes, and McMurtry recalls a simpler, more affordable time.
“Oh, it’s been a big change. Everything has gotten so high,” she said with a laugh. “The cost of living has just tripled.”
As is the case with many Washington Countians, both have had ties to local agriculture, with McMurtry assisting the tobacco market for 30 years and Shewmaker farming throughout his life. Shewmaker also worked for the state highway department for several years, as well as roughly 15 years with the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). Shewmaker, however, said maybe his most interesting job was supervising 16 state parks under Gov. Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler, Sr., who served from 1935-1939 and again in 1955-1959. It was a position Shewmaker knew wouldn’t last for the long-term, but he said he enjoyed it while it lasted.
“That was during Chandler’s administration and when the governor went out, all the Chandler people went out too. They didn’t need us anymore,” he said. “We knew that in politics, when your man is in you work with them, and after they’re out, in most cases the help goes out, too.”
McMurtry, a member of Springfield United Methodist Church for her 75 years as a local resident, and Shewmaker, a lifelong member of Mackville-Antioch United Methodist Church, each expressed their faith when asked what their secret was to being blessed with such longevity.
“Well, good genes for one thing. My father lived to be 98 and I got his genes. Also, the gift of God. God’s been good to me,” McMurtry said. “I never took a lot of medicine and I eat moderately. I’ve never abused my body; never drank and never smoked.”
“I don’t really know,” Shewmaker said, laughing when asked the same question. “I just thank the Lord for it. I’m very, very thankful.”
Both are still healthy and rely on minimal assistance in their daily lives, to an impressive extent even, as McMurtry said she drives to Mass every Sunday, as well as to Wendy’s every afternoon to meet a group of friends for coffee.
Mayola Shewmaker, Leon’s daughter-in-law and widow of the late Denny Shewmaker, said his health through the years has been nothing short of remarkable.
“He’s been healthy all of his life. About two years ago he got real sick and we had to put him in the nursing home and we thought maybe he’d have to stay there, but within a couple of months he was ready to get out of there,” she said. “He even still cooks his own breakfast. I see to it that he has at least one hot meal a day and I take care of the rest of whatever he needs.”
Shewmaker celebrated his 100th birthday on Sept. 15 at Mackville-Antioch United Methodist Church with friends and family, while McMurtry is preparing for a celebration at Mordecai’s on Oct. 13 from 2-4 p.m. All friends are invited.
“And no gifts,” McMurtry added with a big smile. “At 100 you don’t need gifts.”
McMurtry has one daughter, Bernice Ann Best of Independence, two grandchildren in Independence and London and two great-grandchildren. Shewmaker, who was married to the late Hallie B. Bottom, had two sons, Denny and Gerald Ray, who have passed, and he has five grandchildren -- two of which are local residents and three residing in Texas -- five great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.