Bernice Rogers turns 100 New Year's Day
It was a happier than usual New Year’s Day on Jan. 1, 1917, at the Rogers homestead on Wheeler’s Farm Road in Milford, as Ernest and Beatrice welcomed daughter Bernice into the world.
The Great Depression was still 13 years off and it was a world minus indoor plumbing, running water, electricity, furnaces, telephones, and conveniences taken for granted here in the 21st Century. Bernice, who was born at home, as were most children, was the Rogers’ third child, followed later by two more.
It’s going to be a quiet, but still joyous, Jan. 1, 2017, when that baby girl Bernice Rogers (Schulte) Bowden enjoys her 100th birthday at her home in Bethany. It’s been 100 years of seeing more changes than any previous century in history.
One of Bernice’s earliest memories is of bringing water into the home for everyday use. That experience taught her the importance of conservation of water, and everyday items that we take for granted today. That is a trait that she carries with her to this day.
Bernice, mother of five, grandmother of 18, great-grandmother of more than 30 and great-great-grandmother of nearly 10 (with another on the way, it was learned Christmas Day), has barely slowed during those 10 decades of life. She is still living in the home she shared with her husband of 40 years, Carl, who passed in April 2014 at 92 years old.
The spunky, soon-to-be centurion still cooks meals every day for herself, son Linwood, 78, the girls track and field and cross country coach at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, and great-granddaughter Heidi, 22, who now share her home.
And not only does she cook the meals, she does so on a wood-burning stove.
Why cook on a wood-burning stove, as opposed to a conventional oven?
“I find it easier,’’ she said. “I’d rather cook on it.’’
And she and son Linwood did just that on Christmas Day, cooking nearly the entire holiday meal on that stove — the staple of her remarkably efficient kitchen.
So much for “modern” conveniences in the Bowden house.
When one stops by Bernice’s home she can typically be found in the kitchen cooking up a loaf of bread, a pie or one of her meals. Under the direction of his mom, Linwood handles the large garden and Bernice still uses the produce to cook with each summer and fall. She freezes much of it, too, for use during the winter months.
No longer able to work in the garden herself, Bernice “supervises” Linwood from the deck above as he plants, weeds and harvests the vegetables.
If she isn’t in the kitchen or on the deck during the summer, she can be found in her chair watching her favorite channel — Fox news, with remote control in hand. Another convenience unheard of in 1917.
Bernice still has not lost her wit. When asked how she is doing, she responds: “If I was 18, not so good, but I’m 99, so I’m doing pretty good.”
Aside from the loss of some hearing, Bernice is in remarkably good health, thanks to good living and outstanding genetics. Her father, Ernest, farmed the land on Wheeler’s Farm Road up to the day of his death in May 1978 when he was 95.
Her sister, Mirilla, is 97, and her other siblings lived into their 90s. Brother Ernest died “young,” at 75.
Looking back over her century, Bernice said the most surprising advancements have been the availability of the automobile and communication.
In 1917 the Rogers’ phone number was 42-4, meaning there were 42 families on the line and the call was for the Rogers if the phone rang only four times.
When she was in school in 1926, the building had access to just one phone, and it was restricted to use only in the case of an emergency, unlike today, when there are phones in every classroom and all the teachers, and most students, have access to cell phones.
Changes she hasn’t been fond of have been the rush of today’s society. One of her biggest pet peeves is that TV announcers “talk too fast and they don’t fully enunciate their words.”
Bernice has passed her amazing family genetics on to her five children, as Lester, 80, Linwood, 78, Louise, 76, Willard, 74, and Debbie, 56, all are in good health.
Now that she is at the century mark, what are Bernice’s plans for the future?
“Take life one day at a time,” she said. “And start ordering seeds for this summer’s garden.”