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It's a wonderful life!

Louise Munday feted on the occasion of her 100th Birthday

By Eric E. McKeirnan

Special to the East Washingtonian

Frank Capra directed a story about an ordinary man and what a far-reaching effect he could have on a multitude of people through the span of a lifetime. A similar story began on March 14, 1923 up Rickman Gulch on the Schuelke place. Marianna Louise was God's gift to Gertrude Purcell Schuelke, Albert William Schuelke and her older brother John.

Her elementary school was at the Pataha School and Pomeroy Grade School before attending higher education at Pomeroy High School, graduating in 1941.

Edward and Roserene Landkammer hired her to prepare early breakfasts. and the many chores that fill a farm's daily agenda, ending with washing dishes just before dark. She went home the same way she got to work. She walked. It paid four dollars a week.

She grew into her early teens and worked for State Legislator J.T. Ledgerwood and wife, Lou. This step up brought in an astounding one dollar per day, a notable raise. Each day had an assigned task, the same as the week before. You might think that this would be enough to keep a young girl's time occupied. She often babysat for Parker and Mary Lou McFaddin on Saturday nights. Every now and again, when they didn't need her, she got to go home for the weekend. There just might be a book in need of investigating.

A vocation of nursing and the easing of suffering became a goal. She did not have the $100 for the tuition, but her grandmother did. Louise was told that she could pay the money back when she became gainfully employed. She did and then she did, fulfilling a promise.

St. Ignatius Hospital in Colfax had just the school for this 18 year old.

Things went well until they didn't. Her brother was taken prisoner of war in February of 1942. This incident caused her to withdraw from her studies and return home. St. Ignatius closed before Louise returned to the study of nursing. She transferred to Sacred Heart in Spokane, graduating in 1946.

Backing up a step or two, while she was a student in Colfax, she met a patient with a broken leg at the hospital. He impressed her as an obnoxious flirt and she was glad when he was discharged. As chance happens, she met the same obnoxious flirt at the Shamrock Cafe in Colfax. "I know you!" he said as they met again. She treasured Howard for 41 years until cancer took him away in 1988.

The newlyweds built a home in Colfax and Louise worked at St. Ignatius for nine and a half years. The couple was able to settle some affairs and purchase the family farm back in Garfield County. Louise worked at St. Ignatius a full shift and the next day she worked a full shift at the Pomeroy hospital.

Her dad was in poor health but now she was close by to help.

The year is I955; Howard is working for the county and farming on the weekends. Life is good. Louise worked with Dr. Bond and Dr. Herron during her career. She spent thirty-three years in practice with Dr. Richard Weiland.

She has the heart of a volunteer. My dictionary defines a volunteer as: "To enter into, or make an offer of or for any service of one's free will, without solicitation or compulsion." If you boil that down to soup and nuts it means "to give freely of oneself, to make things better for others."

Louise served on the Garfield County Human Service board for more years than her memory can recall. She helped start the Food Bank, belonged to the Pioneer and Historical Associations and was the Honored Pioneer in 2002. Louise belongs to the State Nurses Association and helped get the Senior Center off and running. She still is a board member at 100 years old. She has belonged to the Garfield County Aging and Long Term Care Board numerous years. They would meet every two months, joining eight other counties in the Tri-Cities. She did this until the pandemic hit. She is a lifetime member of the Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum. which keeps a little soil clinging to her farm roots.

In the year 2000, she was State Volunteer of the year posting 1,000 volunteer hours, and has added a bagful in the 22 years that followed. She has been a parishioner of Holy Rosary Catholic Church all her life.

Speaking of life, her neighbors, Helen and Garth Bull, who had two children with disabilities (Garth Jr. and Judy), asked Louise: "If they were to leave this world, would she take gentle care of their children?" Helen and Garth Sr. retired from this life in 1990 and 199l. Louise, Garth Jr. and Judy then became a family for what little time God could allow.

Every word before this seems to be just a footnote to encapsulate a lifetime. We had a party to celebrate the reaching of a decade of decades. When first I saw the bright 100 signs about the hall I was not certain if it was related to years lived or the percentage of "fabulous" in Louise. We'll call it a tie. Louise planned the whole thing. She told the Altar Society the menu she wanted. There were ribs, turkey, shrimp and roast beef, gravy and probably potatoes somewhere on the table. The salads were like stars on a clear night. Cupcakes and little chocolates, rolls with pats of butter. I'm probably not telling you the half of it. Did I mention deviled eggs?

Cindy Klaveano, along with Joann Cassetto, Corky Slaybaugh, Connie Harris, Micki Ledgerwood, Mary Flerchinger, Terri Jefferies, Jackie Crawford, Carol Obenland, Catherine Aaltonen, Judy Landkammer and Deb Waldher (and I am probably leaving out several", under the supervision of Louise Munday, laid out a banquet spread to make a medieval feast pale. Did I mention cupcakes? I know 1 did, but I had two, so I thought it necessary to repeat.

Our Priest, Fr. Steve Werner, gave a blessing upon the occasion and over the meal. Former pastor of the Christian Church here in Pomeroy, Reverend Roger Peterson, laid out precious words to God's children. Reverend Jon Van Vogt lent his able talent to the piano. The devil could not have gotten inside with a sledge hammer. All was right with the world at that moment.

Because of sickness, a cousin from Virginia was only able to send congratulations by phone. Folks that did show up came from Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, S. Dakota, Utah, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Canada.

Like George Bailey, one life affects many. From Louise and Howard's family, mainly the Purcell's, (who may have numbered nearly 50) music was given to the celebration from a banjo played by nephew Glen Andrews of Calgary and a violin played by Brent Waldher, a great, great grandson, playing the instrument dating back 145 years in Howards family. A century ago, that violin was a fiddle and it played at dances in Columbia, Asotin and Garfield counties.

Songs praising Jesus Christ boomed inside the hall from the voice of Kayleen Westbrook. You might think this thing was a big prayer meeting. It wasn't; it was a party, and Jesus was just another guest. I saw his face several times. My wife Linda asked Louise if she would plan her 100th birthday. Louise smiled and said she would love to. I'm sad that I won't be around for Louise's 200th birthday. It's going to be a knock out!

The Altar Society laid out 210 fancy plates for the meal. When they ran out of those, they went to the cabinet for more. It is believed that about 283 people (not including children) attended. There were some that just had time to pop in, say howdy and be on their way.

Most of the information about Louise was supplied to me from Barbara McClanahan, Cindy Kleaveno, Doris Ann Todd, and from my own conversation with Louise. I wish I was as sharp as she is. Missing just one or two pieces to the puzzle. I went back to ask Louise a couple more questions. Eloise said "Go ahead and wake her up, she will want to talk with you."

Louise told a quick story about returning from the party to the nursing home. Louise brought back three purple balloons, a big purple "1" and two big purple zeros. Just before entering the main door, the big purple one makes a break for it, slipping through her fingers and rising off and away. "That was unexpected," she said. To be fair she released one of the zeros. It was not as adventurous and tried to roost in a nearby tree. Now she is holding just the one big purple zero, with twinkling eyes and the smile of a seven year old, she looks at it and says, "l hope this doesn't mean I have to start over?"

Louise is living evidence that God loves us.