Windham – When one gets an opportunity to sit down with a centenarian, the first thing that comes to mind is, what is your secret to longevity? Which was one of the first things I asked Kathryn Brobst as she approached the 100-year milestone. Mrs. Brobst replied, “I’ve lived a clean life, no drinking or smoking,” but most of all she attributes her longevity to the Grace of God. “My faith in the blood of Jesus has sustained me. God has blest me with good health,” she said.
On August 12, 2019, Brobst reached that 100-year milestone. She was born to Theodore and Minnie Brumbaugh in Akron, Ohio. She was the eighth child in the family, having five brothers and four sisters. As a minister’s daughter, she found herself living in Akron, Mineral Ridge, Nelson, and Braceville before settling in Windham. She graduated from Braceville school in the late 1930’s and married Paul Brobst in 1941.
She describes her childhood life as being sheltered and poor. She told me of a time when she was a child that her parents would be up before the kids and be out working in the garden in order to feed their family. They didn’t have tractors then; it was a horse and a plow used to till the soil.
They didn’t have electricity or plumbing growing up either. In fact, she said she never had a home with those luxuries until after she was married. She grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes, and walking to school. She remembered walking to school down Nelson Hill in the rain and getting soaked on the way. The teacher would let her go into the furnace room to dry out and get warm. She remembered being 16 years old and told her dad she wasn’t going back to school because she had noticed her clothes weren’t as nice as the other kids’. Her dad, laid out her options, and after some thought she stayed in school.
In the neighborhoods she grew up in, the kids played a lot of softball, something she says one just doesn’t see today. The kids now are hardly ever outside, just playing. Playing softball with the neighborhood kids birthed a love for the sport. She played the game in school too. She said she had to walk home from the practices and games. Since she needed to be home by dark, the late games made it a challenge for her to do that. So, she wasn’t able to play basketball like she wanted to do because it got dark too early.
After she got married, Paul and Kathryn settled in Windham in 1942 where they had their house built. Being from a humble back ground Mrs. Brobst was not too keen on debt. So, when they had to borrow $1,800 to build their home, she and her husband worked very hard and paid that debt off as quickly as possible. It wasn’t easy, as she and her husband didn’t make that much money at the time. She recollects that Paul started off making $.66/hour working at Silica Sand Company. His wages increased in time as he proved himself a hard worker. She only earned $.33/ hour working in the office during the construction era of the barracks-style housing they were erecting in Windham. They were able to pay off the debt and move into their house prior to starting a family.
Mrs. Brobst wanted a large family, but for whatever reason, she was blest with only three children, spaced out every six years. Her oldest child, Dan is married and lives in Windham and her youngest, Rex, lives with her in Windham and takes care of the things she can’t do. Her middle child, Cindy lives with her husband in New Hampshire. Brobst is proud of her all children’s accomplishments as well as her 4 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
When asked about all the changes she has seen in the 100 years, she said there were so many. One was when she first was able to have electricity in her house. When she and her husband had their house built, they made sure that was included. She tells the time she saw the first plane fly overhead. She was amazed at how that huge thing, could stay in the sky. She also remembered pumping water from a well and carrying it into the kitchen. She remembered not having a radio, television or telephone, until long after she was married. Most of the changes she’s embraced, like indoor plumbing, electricity, telephone and other modern conveniences. There are some of the modern things she hasn’t embraced, such as the busyness of society, social media, most electronics, the “dog-eat-dog lifestyle” and how families don’t come together any more. She remembers when families gathered regularly and now, they are just too busy.
Throughout the years, she has had good health, she has helped many family members in their time of need and is still going strong today. Somewhere around 90 years old, she said she stopped teaching the ladies’ Bible study that she had done for as long as she could remember. Up until seven year ago, she was still driving. Now she relies on her sons to get her where she needs to go.
She said, her father told her, when she was young, that she was no better or worse than anyone else, God loved everyone. She still thinks that way today. She doesn’t feel that she is anybody special, and is somewhat uncomfortable with all the attention that’s been given to her as of late. She recently received a Proclamation from the Portage County Commissioners proclaiming August 12, 2019 as Kathryn Brobst Day. She also received Proclamations from congressmen, Tim Ryan, David Joyce and Senator Sherrod Brown. Her family had a big birthday celebration for her on August 8, 2019.
Mrs. Brobst loves to walk, garden and read. Although the aging process has slowed her walk and eliminated her gardening, she still reads a lot. She doesn’t enjoy cooking, but she did tell me she had a bushel of apples she was going to make apple sauce out of them and freeze for the winter.Yum!
She grew up poor and lived a very humble life, wearing hand-me-down clothes, living off the garden and home-grown food. Canning, sitting on the porch snapping beans and cleaning homegrown produce was a way of life for her. A simple life, but one she loves. Now days, one will often find her sitting in her easy chair reading.
Happy Birthday Mrs. Brobst!