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Published: Wednesday, 1/25/2006

Perrysburg: Centenarian Mother worked, raised 4 children in tough times

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Alma Roady was growing up on an Illinois farm, her mother would dust her skin with powder because she didn't think proper girls should have tans.

That powder-dusted girl grew into a woman who insulated her own attic and taught her daughters how to strip electrical cords.

"Anything around the house that a man could do, she taught us to do," her daughter Rose Shelton said.

Mrs. Roady, who turned 100 on Jan. 20, raised four successful children mostly on her own and worked as the women's coordinator in the personnel department at Owens Illinois.

Her husband died when her youngest child was 2, and her daughter said life wasn't easy for her with four young children. But she made the best of it.

"Mother could make milk gravy and make us think we were having steak and eggs," she said.

Born in Hillview, Ill., Mrs. Roady didn't go to school until she was 10 but learned from a teacher who stayed with the family and eventually got her high school diploma. She later took college courses.

Her daughter said her mother is proud that her four children got good educations.

Mrs. Roady taught nursery school for a time, then started working in the Owens Illinois factory in Alton, Ill., where she eventually became the women's coordinator in the personnel department. She was responsible for interviewing, testing, and hiring all the women in the 3,000-person factory.

She took their welfare seriously after they were hired, her daughter said. She took flowers to the sick employees and asked a woman who worked on the packing line to spend more time recovering after having a baby.

"She had a wonderful job and liked it," her daughter said.

Since she hired so many people in Alton, everyone knew her, and many still remember her, her daughter said. For her 90th birthday, she got more than 100 cards.

Mrs. Roady lived in Alton for 52 years and moved to Perrysburg five years ago to live with her daughter, where she has her own rooms upstairs.

Dozens of photos line the walls of her sitting room, including one of her and Nancy Reagan. She was an active Republican who put a sign supporting President Bush in her window during the 2004 election.

She's in good health, although most of her hearing is gone and she doesn't always talk very much. Asked how she's stayed healthy for a century, she said she didn't do anything.

Mrs. Roady has traveled extensively, including visiting her daughter when she lived in Egypt, and taking trips to Alaska, Niagara Falls, and Cuba. She saw the Grand Canyon for the first time in May.

She read a book a day for years, enjoying mysteries, Christian books, biographies, and political books.

Her son-in-law Doug Shelton said she'd sit on the sofa and read by the picture window.



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