ELIZABETH TWP. — Crediting her faith in the Lord, a lifetime of hard work and whole milk, Elizabeth Township resident Doris Beeson recently sat still long enough alongside her daughters, Patty Taynor and Phyllis Bair, to reflect on a 100 years of memories.
Her only birthday wish is to see her family, her greatest joy, in one place. That birthday wish will come true this Memorial Day.
On Monday, the family will celebrate Beeson’s century of life by sharing their family tradition of making homemade, hand-cranked ice cream with well wishers at the Miami County Fairgrounds. Her birthday party will be held from 2-4:30 p.m.
When asked what her secret to being active at 100 years-old, Beeson quipped, “hard work and whole milk — I don’t drink coffee.”
Beeson also shared her simple philosophy to reaching the unique milestone.
“You got to keep moving, you can’t sit,” she said. “Keep busy and keep your eyes on the Lord.”
The centenarian remains on the move, attending stretch and balance classes twice a week at the Elizabeth Township Center. She continues to attend Cove Springs Church every Sunday.
Living a life void of regrets, Beeson said she wasn’t much for traveling the world, preferring to stay close to family and their farm.
“I’m satisfied here,” she said. She and her late husband Warren would coordinate bus trips for 3-4 day educational tours for 20 years, but she never felt the itch to tour the world. Instead, her family hosted international students from Japan, Finland and Argentina.
Beeson continues to keep a daily journal of daily life. Her daughters shared how Beeson stays sharp by beating young family members at the game of checkers on a routine basis.
The oldest of four siblings, Beeson was born on June 5, 1919, on a farm where the Dayton International Airport is now located. Beeson’s sisters, Amy Eidemiller and Glenna Rasor, are in their early 90s. A brother, Bill Lesher, passed away in 1998 at the age of 77.
When she was school age, her parents Torrence and Luella (Rumbarger) Lesher moved the family north to a farm in the area of State Route 571 and Nashville Road, in Monroe Township. Beeson remembers the farm’s long lane and the daily milking of cows.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Beeson recalled one Christmas mishap. Her brother Bill had received a new hair comb. She recalled how he was drying it over the wood stove and accidentally dropped into the fire — his Christmas gift was gone.
She first attended school at Morton Elementary in Vandalia before the family’s move to Miami County. Her father quit school in the eighth grade and her mother quit her sophomore year to care for an ill brother. Doris continued her education in a one-room school house, warmed by a stove in the center of the building. Beeson recalled how the teacher would have one family bring potatoes and onions and another family bring milk. The teacher would cook potato soup on the stove for her students once a week.
Beeson remembers participating in 4-H as a child. She remembers sewing an outfit and buying a hat to top off the project. The project received a good grade and was displayed at the state fair.
Tending to children was also a theme in Beeson’s life. Beeson said her first job after graduation was to care for the school teachers‘ adopted child while they taught school during the day.
For decades, Beeson also taught Sunday School for Cove Springs Church’s youngest attendees. One memory included teaching the “Going on a Bear Hunt in the Woods” pre-school song. She remembered how the song had terrified one Sunday School students so much so that she had to quit teaching the song altogether. Later in life, she drove a school bus for Miami East students and has plenty of stories from that occupation to share.
She also worked at the Tipp City Grandview Market in her youth. Doris still bears the deep scar on her thumb she got while slicing bananas off the bunch. She recalled how the store’s butcher dressed the wound in plain pepper seasoning which stopped the bleeding and didn’t burn.
Being an active member of the Grange organization continues to be a constant thread in Beeson’s life. Her parents were charter members of the Monroe Township Grange organization. It was at the “Rural Urban Family Fraternity” where she met her husband Warren Beeson. The pair were married at the Grange Hall following a meeting in 1940 by the minister who lived across the street. Beeson recalled having a big turnout for their wedding, including folks who saw their marriage license in the newspaper and rushed to attend the ceremony. The couple would socialize with other Grange members, playing cards, square dancing and playing the occasional prank on one another. One such prank included putting a friend’s socks in their bedside commode during a time period void of indoor plumbing.
Beesons later transferred their membership to the Cove Springs Grange. Doris continues to work behind the counter of grange’s kitchen at the Miami County Fair each August. Bair shared how one year, Doris had a cardiac stress test done at a doctor’s appointment during the fair. The doctor had ordered she rest for the day. When Doris noticed they weren’t returning to the county fair, she ordered her daughter to turn around and get back to the fairgrounds to tend to the grange’s tasks.
“I turned the car around and back to the fair we went,” Bair shared.
The Beesons began their marriage at Warren’s family home for six months before renting their own farm on State Route 202 in Bethel Township. One day, the pair traveled to Doris’ parents home where they saw smoke coming from the farm. Her childhood home had caught fire and when they arrived, they found her mother was missing from the home. They soon discovered her mother was busy saving the family’s bull from the nearby barn in case it caught fire. Her mother also managed to save the family’s piano before the home was destroyed. Her family then lived in the farm’s milk house following the fire.
She and her husband farmed and Warren also worked for Troy Sunshade and other companies on night shifts. One summer during World War II, while men were overseas, Doris helped make hay on her husband’s family’s farm. Her children stayed at her mother’s farm while Doris drove the baler, earning $200 that summer. Doris said she bought her husband a suit with part of the money, not spending a dime on herself.
She and her husband settled into married life on their own farm which had no electricity in the beginning. The couple had three children, Patty and Phyllis, both who reside in Elizabeth Township, and son Ed, who resides in Marysville. Beeson recalled when electric power finally was available at their farm. She remembered the day she acquired an electric washing machine. Her daughter Phyllis, also recalled the appliance, although not as fondly as the day it arrived. Phyllis remembers getting her arm caught in the wringer before the emergency release was engaged.
Having family around is Doris’ greatest joy, she shared. She’s the mother of three children, has eight grandchildren and is the great-great grandmother to more than 20 children — none of which can beat her in a game of checkers.
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org