GREENVILLE – July 3, 1912, marked the opening of the Piedmont Traction between Charlotte and Gastonia in North Carolina, the conclusion of the British inquiry about the Titanic disaster and a house on the market went for as low as $2,900.
It was also the year Lois (Utterback) Beal was born on a farm in north central Missouri.
Beal, who lives in Greenville, is celebrating a landmark birthday and doing so in a quiet manner. She had friends suggest a party but it wasn’t the way she wanted to observe becoming a centurion.
Living 100 years has given Beal a unique perspective on societal changes, especially having been an educator for 48 years. She was raised on a farm with two brothers and three sisters. She walked a half mile to rural school and boarded in town in order to attend high school where she began teaching at age 17.
Beal compared the experience to attending college since she lived away from her parents in order to receive an education beyond the eighth grade, which was common at the time.
“There was something about my parents; they really wanted us to have an education so they sacrificed,” Beal said.
Beal’s mother was also a teacher as was her uncle and sister, Roberta.
Beal remembers World War I as if it were yesterday.
“I remember my cousins came back from World War I and in the little town where I lived. They had a big bonfire on the hill and everyone was throwing their hats in the fire and I was afraid my new hat would get throw in,” Beal recalled.
Talking to Beal is like opening a history text book. She remembers the stock market crash in 1929, when many people, including her father and many of her uncles, lost money. She graduated from high school that same year. She remembers the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the many U.S. presidents who have sat in the White House the last century.
Her experience teaching, however, is her most cherished memories.
She began her teaching career at the age of 17 after having been trained for two years while attending high school. She taught for seven years in rural schools then moved to Saginaw to teach third grade at South Intermediate School at the urging of a friend. She taught in Saginaw for five years before marrying Victor Beal. Her career continued for 12 years in Stanton, where she worked with County Normal students.
In 1954, Beal began teaching in Greenville, where she was a first grade teacher at Cedar Crest Elementary and later transferred to Baldwin Heights where she stayed for the remainder of her career, first as a teacher for five years before being promoted to principal.
She found being a principal enjoyable and recalled a time in 1976 when all the teachers and students circled the building as part of the many commemorations of the bicentennial.
Beal laments the many changes she sees in both the students, parents and education system itself.
“I couldn’t teach today; you know how kids just look at a screen,” Beal said. “There is something to be said about turning the page of a book.”
Having such a long career and living to the age of 100 has not slowed Beal any. She attributes her longevity to genes, eating right, exercising and recognizing and appreciating all the good in her life.
She still maintains her home with the help of her good friend, Marsha Sexton, spends five to ten minutes every day on her exercise machine and is involved in various organizations.
She belonged to Tri Sigma sorority, Delta Kappa Gamma, Stanton Woman’s Club, Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel and Traditional Congregational Church in Stanton.
Beal also has and maintains many friends, including her neighbor, Jackie Large.
At the young age of 90, Large marvels at Beal’s zest for life remarking that Beal just renewed her driver’s license.
If she has learned anything over the past 100 years, it is appreciation of still enjoying her life at 100.
“I am fortunate to be well, live in my home, being able to drive, attend church and still active in retirement organizations,” Beal said.