Nov. 11, 1918 marked a ceasefire of World War I and thus called Armistice Day. Just prior to the advent of a nationally recognized holiday, Glenn E. Waters recalls celebrating the end of war in his own unique way.
“I can just remember being 5 years old the end of World War I and there was a parade in Ionia,” said Waters, who will celebrate his 100th birthday tomorrow. “My brother and I had a couple of little drums and we played in that parade.”
Waters was born in Ionia County on July 30, 1912. He grew up on the outskirts of town where his father maintained eight acres and he and his younger brother would walk two miles to school.
School proved to be a struggle as it was common practice at the time to make those who were left-handed to switch to their right hand. It created an obstacle for Waters, resulting in a stuttering problem and difficulty in learning to read. He was allowed to return to writing with his left hand, which ended his stuttering problem.
While he felt he didn’t do particularly well in academics, Waters did excel in athletics, lettering in track and even ran his freshman year of college at Western Michigan University (WMU). Waters graduated from WMU and became an industrial arts teacher.
“It was a big change to WMU from Ionia. I had to learn how to study,” he said. “It was quite an adjustment. Some of the teachers there were pretty rough.”
Waters began his teaching career in Johannesburg, a small town just east of Gaylord, and then moved to Midland where he remained for 34 years. He spent some time teaching middle school, but the majority of his career was spent teaching welding to high school students.
Waters’ love of his craft carries through today with his wood and metal working projects.
Despite his advanced age, his hands are still steady and able to create works of art. He crafted a beautiful blanket chest his sophomore year of high school, which is still in his residence.
In 1948, Waters built a cabin on Spyre Lake, near Traverse City. He also hammered 24 metal dulcimers, selling all but one. Despite making musical instruments, Waters is not a musician. He even attended a dulcimer festival every year in Everett and is a lifelong member of the American Welding Society.
Waters continues to enjoy woodworking and sharing his love of the art with others by being part of classes offered through the community center the first and third Thursdays of each month. He even carved the wooden chest that holds his woodworking tools. However, metal and woodworking are not the only hobbies in which Waters partakes. He was once an avid hunter and fisherman, only giving up the past times in the last eight years. It was square dancing that led Waters to his current wife, Dorothy, however.
“She went with another guy named Bill and I met her square dancing,” Waters said. “I hooked her and he didn’t,” he added with a laugh. “I’ll be married to Dorothy six years on my birthday.”
Waters moved back to Belding to marry Dorothy where they attend First United Methodist Church. They just recently moved to Green Acres Retirement Living in Greenville, where they have already enjoyed some of the outings offered by the facility.
The beginning of the July, the two enjoyed a trip to an area lake where Waters drove a pontoon boat for the first time. He still enjoys being outdoors and also likes to watch Detroit Tigers baseball.
When reflecting on the many changes Waters has witnessed in his lifetime, he thinks not only of the advances in technology but also the way education and life in general has changed.
“I can’t even think about computers. I don’t know anything about them. But Dorothy knows about them,” he said, adding that he thinks school and the government are more complicated now.
Waters is looking forward to celebrating his landmark birthday and hopes it brings friends in for a visit. He speaks with a clarity unmatched by many his junior and walks with a spring in his step.
Listening to him share stories of childhood softball games with his brother and neighboring kids makes it seem as though it took place just months ago on a warm spring evening. He’s gained wisdom in his years and feels the most important lesson has has learned is to have trust in others.