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Busy life keeps centenarian going strong


Katherine Parks undertook building a house in Westmoreland, unheard of for a woman in 1930.

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The bright blue eyes of Katherine Parks sparkle with a kind of bemusement when she tries to determine how she got to be 100 years old.

She never drank or smoked “to excess,” she said, but she also never subscribed to a particular diet or made a point of getting regular exercise.

“I guess I just kept going each day,” she said.

Miss Parks doesn't make a point of it, but in a time when few women worked outside the home, she took a job with the former City Machining & Tool Co., and was assistant treasurer when she retired.

After graduating from Waite High School in 1919, Miss Parks worked on the 1920 census and then did “odds and ends” until beginning with the machining company.

She said most of her earlier jobs included bookkeeping so she took accounting at night school before taking the job that would last for about 44 years.

She said she received promotions and pay increases and never felt discrimination at the business based on her gender.

“It was nice work. The men with the big jobs let us do our work,” she said.

In about 1930, Miss Parks did something else that was not usually undertaken by a woman in that time.

“Westmoreland was just being developed,” she said. “People said it was going to be a popular place, so I bought a lot and had a house built.”

For a time, her parents and younger sister and brother lived in the four-bedroom house with her.

Her niece, Katie Holubetz, said members of the family view Miss Parks as having been a pioneer for working women and for single women who wanted to be homeowners.

“I don't think she ever had a thought about it. The things she did just made sense and she went ahead and did them,'' Mrs. Holubetz said.

Miss Parks said that she sold the Westmoreland house not long after the end of World War II, “and then I found out there weren't any apartments available.

“I didn't have a place to move.”

Eventually she moved into a small apartment above a Phillips Avenue bar that her brother owned.

“It was all right, but kind of small after living in a big four-bedroom house. I didn't go downstairs very often, because men kept buying me drinks and I didn't like that.”

Miss Parks said the tool-and-die firm was purchased by Sheller Globe, “but it didn't change my work or the people I worked with.”

She retired in 1966, “or my age was 66; I don't remember, but I don't think it matters.”

Although she had no particular reason to retire, Miss Parks said she was busy with family and active in her parish and a number of Catholic organizations.

“I always had plenty to do and I always had a lot of family nearby,” she said.

Miss Parks never married. “I came close, but not close enough,” she said. She had a wedding shower and was close to marriage, “but it didn't seem right.”

The wedding was called off and Miss Parks said he has never regretted it.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” she said.

Some of the places she has been and things she has done elude her, but her mind is sharp.

“I guess sometimes my memory didn't stay together as well as my other parts,” she said.

Although she said travel was interesting to her, but not of great importance, Miss Parks has traveled to many parts of this country as well as Hong Kong, Italy, and Ireland.

Family members also recall that most of her clothes were bought in Detroit, Chicago, and New York.

She now lives in a tidy two-bedroom apartment in the Westgate area.

“I keep thinking of how I'll re-arrange the furniture, but the next morning the phone rings, and I don't have time to get to it,'' she said.

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