LANSING, Ill. (August 5, 2023) – One hundred years ago, the average price of a home was $7,400. The Milky Way Candy Bar was introduced that year and cost just a nickel. The first domestic refrigerator was sold in Sweden. It’s when Roy and Walt Disney founded the Walt Disney Company. Warren G. Harding was President of the United States. And Vera Schmidt was born to Paul and Matilda Sass on Ridge Road in Lansing.
A century living in Lansing
On July 27, 1923, Vera Sass was born in her family’s home on Ridge Road next to Kilroy’s. She was one of six children in her family. Her father worked as a butcher and was also a fire chief in Lansing.
Sass is a lifetime member of St. John Lutheran Church in Lansing. She was baptized there. She went to elementary school there. She got married there. And she still attends services regularly when she can.
Vera got married in 1941 to Joe Homans. The couple had three children — Joanne, Rita, and Bill, all of whom are now deceased. She lost her two daughters in the last couple years. She also outlived her four sisters and one brother. He served in the Army in Italy during World War II, and she lived with her mother while he was away serving his country for three years.
Her husband, Joe, passed away in 1962 after a battle with cancer. She was later married to Robert Schmidt, who is now also deceased.
Schmidt worked as a bank teller at First National Bank of Lansing for 26 years. In March of this year, she moved into St. Anthony’s of Lansing. Up until then she was living with family but still climbing stairs and doing housework. She isn’t too keen on the idea of people taking care of her and doing everything for her.
“I still do my own dusting, but they don’t know that,” she whispered.
Memories of a grand grandmother
Time spent with grandparents is a treasured experience — and that definitely holds true among Schmidt’s family. Her granddaughter Sheryle Bozich has a fond memory of a Saturday afternoons together.
“She took me to Jeans of America and bought me my very first red, white, and blue bell bottom jeans, and then we went to have a hamburger,” Bozich said.
Kim Wright of Lansing is another one of Schmidt’s granddaughters who also has special memories of the time they spent together, including going together to the Ben Franklin store where she was treated to a new board game.
“One of my fondest memories of my grandma was back when I was a kid. She took my cousin Sue and I to Ben Franklin, and she let us pick out whatever we wanted. I can’t remember what Sue picked out, but I remember what I got — the game Trouble. We had so much fun playing it together,” said Wright. “My grandma is 100 years young as of July 27th, but believe me, she doesn’t look it. The only problem she has is her hearing. I love my grandma with all my heart. Not only is she my grandmother, but I consider her to be one of my best friends. When God created grandmothers, he surely created one of the best.”
As for Schmidt’s own memories of childhood, she recalls playing dolls in a house across the street from Beggar’s Pizza on Ridge Road that is still there. She also has good memories of attending parades and spending time at church.
“I never lived anywhere else, and I’ve loved Lansing all my life,” she said.
Celebrating 100 years
On July 27, Schmidt celebrated her 100th birthday with three separate celebrations. The first was at St. Anthony’s where she was one of three residents celebrating hitting the 100-year milestone. The celebration included a gathering with cake, decorations, and a visit from Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam.
The second birthday party took place on Sunday, July 30, following a church service at St. John Lutheran. The congregation and family went to the church basement where a big cake was waiting in her honor.
“I go to a wonderful church, and there are so many wonderful people there,” said Schmidt. “They’re my best friends.”
The third party was a big affair with about 75 people in attendance on Sunday afternoon at Van Laten Park organized by Bozich and Wright. Family came from around the country to celebrate with their grandmother — and great grandmother. In addition to family from the area, a granddaughter came in from Georgia, another came from Virginia, and a granddaughter, grandson, and great-grandson visited from Arizona.
The party included a big balloon arrangement, lots of food, another cake, and some time chatting with attendees under a shelter.
“I had a gorgeous time. It was beautiful. The food was delicious, and I just sat and enjoyed every minute of it,” said Schmidt. “I’ll never forget that party.”
Among her gifts were several new word find books. “Everyone knows I love to do those puzzles,” she said. “I got big books and little books.”
Aside from some hearing difficulties, Schmidt is in great physical condition. She walks around freely without assistance. She does a lot of walking. She still goes up and down stairs, “but I have to hold on,” she admits. “I’ve had good health throughout my life, which I’m very thankful for. I’ve never suffered from any illness or aches and pains.”
“We’re so glad she made it to 100,” said Kim, who lives close and is able to visit frequently.
In her earlier, more active years, Schmidt spent countless hours making hand-crafted Christmas ornaments and framing her embroidered sayings and scenes.
“She made a lot of those ornaments, and she would paint them for us and add sequins,” said Wright.
Asked what it takes to live a happy life, Schmidt’s reply is simple: “I’m happy because of my family. They all make me happy. I have no reason to be sad.”
Schmidt is an avid Chicago Cubs fan, and she loves watching game shows, particularly Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.
“She faithfully gets her hair done every other week,” said Bozich. “At 100 years young, she is still able-bodied except for her hearing aids. She likes a beer every now and then, and she absolutely loves her raspberry coffee cake and honey buns.”
As for advice on living a long, fulfilling life, Schmidt said, “Trust in the Lord and be a good person.”
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