The year Nona Mattheis was born, William Howard Taft was president, the Ford Model T was in just its third year of production and workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the construction of the Titanic.
And today, the 104-year-old, who celebrated her birthday August 11, still lives independently in a small apartment in Vicksburg. She’s spent her whole life in and around the village.
Except for a broken arm, Mattheis has never spent major time in a hospital either. Aside from some blood pressure medication, she is surprisingly healthy for her age. She also sometimes uses a cane to move about her apartment.
“When you get to be my age, you better be safe than sorry,” Mattheis said.
She originally grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg where her dad was a farmer. Mattheis went to school in a one-room schoolhouse and eventually she moved into town. In 1932, she married Vern Mattheis.
“We went down to Indiana and got married then we came back and he went to work,” Mattheis said.
The two had four children together. Vern died in 1965, but Nona has kept moving forward in life. She now has 10 grandchildren and countless more great-grandchildren.
And Nona managed to stay plenty active in her home community. She worked at the Arco rubber factory for 11 years and spent many more volunteering at the community center and helping deliver meals on wheels for 22 more.
“I enjoyed that, going to people’s houses,” Mattheis said.
While her memories of the area have gotten a little hazy over the years, she can still remember when passenger trains used to stop in Vicksburg. Mattheis’ daughter, Phylius Barrett, said her mother often speaks about missing the businesses that came and went in the downtown area.
Nona gives some of the credit for her longevity to her faith. In fact, that’s her advice to young people about living to an old age. “Go to church,” Mattheis said. She still attends church every Sunday, although “She had to give up her high heels (that she wore there) about a year ago,” Barrett said.
Another secret of old age for Mattheis is to eat a variety of foods, especially veggies. Well, that, and her favorite food, hamburgers. “Everything tastes good to me,” she said. Barrett said her mother’s cooking is still a hit.
“When we have a get-together, she has to bring her deviled eggs, everyone loves them,” Barrett said.
These days, when not able to visit with grandchildren or practicing her faith, Mattheis spends time tending to her flowers and birds at her apartment and occasionally watching her favorite show Dr. Phil.
She also occasionally enjoys a visit to Gun Lake casino where she likes to play the penny slot machines. “That’s her one vice,” Barrett said.
The location of her apartment is ideal because it is in close proximity to a playground. She enjoys listening to and watching children play on days when the weather is nice. She even keeps a routine, waking up early at 6 a.m. and going to bed at 11 p.m.
Again she emphasized her morning and evening prayers as a part of her enjoyment each day.
“I thank the good Lord every day,” Mattheis said.