It was a special day at the Manawa Community Nursing Center on Monday, Aug. 27 as Lelah Shanklin Lightfuss celebrated her 102nd birthday with her family.
Lelah’s son, Dale Lightfuss, said she has lived at the Manawa Community Nursing Center for about the last six weeks. Prior to that, she had lived on her own in a house in Manawa. She moved into that house 43 years ago.
Her family said Lelah was born on a farm in the township of Amherst, where she also attended school. Each day she walked two miles to school and two miles home from school.
She then attended school in Stevens Point and earned a certificate that allowed her to teach in a rural school. She taught in one-room schools near Amherst and Ogdensburg. Her family said she had to walk to school at 7 a.m. to get the fire started in the building so it would be warm when the children arrived.
After four years of teaching, she got married and spent the next 20 years caring for her husband and three children. Her husband was a farmer.
At the urging of her cousin, Lelah attended summer school in Stevens Point, and she taught primary classes at the Ogdensburg School. In 1962, after continued summer school and Saturday classes, she received her bachelor’s degree to teach primary and kindergarten children.
Her family said she began teaching kindergarten at Green Valley School, an unused, but modern, rural school building. The previous building had been destroyed by a tornado. Her first kindergarten class included 62 children. She taught class and conducted kindergarten graduations for eight years at Green Valley School and at Manawa.
In 1967, her husband and her sold their farm in Ogdensburg and moved to Manawa. Her family said she retired from teaching in 1971, and her husband passed away in 1981.
She is a member of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Symco. She also volunteered for 32 years at the Waupaca County Nutrition Program in Manawa.
Prior to moving to the Community Nursing Center, Dale said his mother would visit the Nutrition Center in Manawa at least a couple times a week to play cards and have dinner. He said she enjoys playing Sheepshead and 10-Point Smear.
Dale and his wife, Fay, are Lelah’s helpers.
Family member Roland Junker said a few years ago Lelah said it was her goal to reach 102. He also said that she enjoyed doing a lot of walking and that is what she said has helped her reach 102.
Family members who celebrated her birthday with her included her son Dale Lightfuss and his wife Fay; her daughter Darlene Lightfuss; her daughter Faye Junker; Ann Junker; Dan Lightfuss; Veronica Junker; Matt Junker; and Roland Junker.