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Published: Monday, 1/18/2010

Perrysburg resident celebrates 103rd birthday

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Now 103 years old, Alice Gwyn enjoys just the simple things.

At her birthday party in Perrysburg yesterday, the greatest gift was having four generations of her family together, although Mrs. Gwyn seemed surprised by the attention.

"You're famous," quipped Lucy Milliken, a coordinator at Kingston Residence of Perrysburg, where Mrs. Gwyn lives.

"I like it," the soft-spoken Mrs. Gwyn replied.

Peter Gwyn, one of Mrs. Gwyn's three children, said his mother's secret to long life is also simple.

"She enjoyed a glass of wine every night with my father, and I don't think anything got her down," Mr. Gwyn said.

"She never had a spat with anyone."

Her family yesterday discussed the long Gwyn family history.

Alice Gwyn, photographed at the gold mine she and her late husband, James, operated near Beardmore, Ont., worked in Canada for four years before the couple returned to Toledo. Alice Gwyn, photographed at the gold mine she and her late husband, James, operated near Beardmore, Ont., worked in Canada for four years before the couple returned to Toledo.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Three years ago, during Mrs. Gwyn's 100th birthday party, a family member asked who had been president in 1907, the year of her birth, Mr. Gwyn recalled.

Well, in the United States, it was Theodore Roosevelt, but since Mrs. Gwyn was born in Winnipeg, it was actually a king [Britain's Edward VII] who ruled, Mr. Gwyn noted.

And although she lived in America when women won the right to vote, Mrs. Gwyn hadn't yet become a citizen.

Mrs. Gwyn was raised by relatives since her mother died shortly after giving birth.

In her early teens, she moved with her stepmother, Emma McKinley Prout, to Columbus, where she worked as a housemother for Ohio State University.

After graduating from Ohio State, Mrs. Gwyn attended Prince School at Simmons College, which is near the center of Boston.

She married James D. Gwyn in 1935, and after living in Toledo, the couple moved to a remote area near Beardmore, Ont., where they operated a gold-mining business.

He was the patriarch and adventurer of the Gwyn family for that period.

"That was the era when wives followed their husbands," said Alice "Lee" Shepherd, Mrs. Gwyn's daughter. "She went along excited, I'm sure."

Four years later, the couple moved back to Toledo - possibly with some gold nuggets - and Mr. Gwyn took a job with the former Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. as a research chemist.

They finally moved to Clover Lane in Perrysburg in 1941, and she stayed there for more than six decades. "She had Christmas Eve dinner for the family and neighbors in that house every year for 63 straight years," Mr. Gwyn said.

Mrs. Gwyn became a citizen in 1955.

The Gwyns traveled together until he died in 1979.

Mr. Gwyn said his mother always has been a strong-willed person, which could be another ingredient to her longevity.

"She drove her car until she was in her 90s, and we finally had to take the car," he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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