It is because she has a friend, Virginia “Jenny” (Fontaine) Schneider says, that she was able to celebrate her 104th birthday Thursday.
“I have a boyfriend up in heaven – Jesus. That’s the reason I’m tickled,” the Hillsboro resident said. “I think he did a pretty good job.”
Other than that, she said she has no secrets to a long life.
Schneider was married for 58 years, but never had children. One of her eight siblings though, had 13 children and Schneider spent lots of time helping raise them. They are all still living.
Two of those nieces, Wanda Race and Sandy Fontaine, both of Amelia, were at Schneider’s home Thursday.
“When we were kids her and her husband would play Santa Claus for us,” Fontaine said. “We lived on a farm and she would make dresses for us out of feed sacks to wear to school or church. They helped my mom and dad out tremendously.”
She said the Schneiders would come to the farm on Christmas eve with presents, wait until the children went to bed, then put up a Christmas tree with all the trimmings that night.
Race joked that the reason Schneider has lived so long is because she never had children. “She’s had lots of nieces and nephews that she helped with, but she could send them back,” Race laughed.
But the nieces also offered more serious reasons why Schneider has lived so long. They said she had a love for flowers and had a half-acre backyard filled with flowers and ponds before such things were trendy. They said she always had dogs, drank alcohol with moderation and she did about everything, and has always been able to make longtime friends with an uncanny ease.
One of those friends is Patty Roades, the activities director of Heartland of Hillsboro, where Schneider has spent some time.
“She was with me when all my people died and she took me to her home for Thanksgiving and Christmas every time,” Schneider said.
Originally from Mount Washington in the Cincinnati area, Schneider said her parents were Sid and Bertha (Stewart) Fontaine. She said her claim to fame is that her grandmother’s brother, who she called General Forest, married former President George Washington’s niece.
Schneider said both she and her husband worked at Georgia Pacific in Cincinnati. He worked there for 33 years and she worked there until she was 55. She also worked at Anderson High School as a janitor for 20 years, and worked other places.
Schneider had a brother who lived in the Rocky Fork Lake area and when she and her husband retired they moved to the lake and lived there for 20 years until her husband passed away in 2001.
Since then she’s lived in a small apartment in Hillsboro. She lives on her on, but has a person who helps her get up in the morning and then returns for a while in the evening. Part of the reason she needs help is because she said she’s had 10 operations on one leg and it’s about eight inches shorter than the other one.
Her nieces said Schneider crochets about 10 hours straight every day. She crochets clothes for dolls, blankets, and has several of her recent pieces of work around her home.
They said she watches the news, keeps on current events, and isn’t shy about expressing her opinion.
Schneider said she worked election polls most of her life and is a devoted Democrat. She said she once sent gifts to former President Bill Clinton and his family and that she’s received several letters back from him.
The nieces said Schneider still attends church and is extremely honest.
“She doesn’t let anything get her down and she just keeps going and going,” they said. “She’s remarkable. I’ll tell you, she has a personality that whoever she meets, they become her friend. It’s a gift.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.