Rowena Gates marks 103rd birthday

By Kayleigh Rahn
On the third floor of the Jarman Center lives a special lady.

Her room is lined with books (at hand are her Bible and her latest library find); about a dozen brilliantly colored glass paperweights sit on her coffee table; and in different areas of her living space she displays artifacts of a life well traveled, well lived, and well loved.

At 103 years old, agile-minded Rowena Gates is a treasure.

For perspective, the year she was born, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson was in office, Charlie Chaplin’s first film “Making a Living” hit the big screen, and a 19-year-old Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox. It was a different time and, by the opinion of most, a different world.

Rowena celebrated her 103rd birthday Monday, July 3 with cupcakes and a butterfly release surrounded by dear friends and family.

“It was a simple day; we didn’t do much at all,” she said.

And how does she feel to turn 103?

“It feels old,” she quipped and let out a chuckle. “I don’t really recommend it.”

The Kewanee native has lived in Tuscola for 81 years–her full adult life. She’s raised her family of three children (she now has four grandchildren, as well) and created a life within the community and on the Gates family farm northeast of town.

Rowena left Kewanee to attend Eureka College where after three years of study she met Gaylord Gates, who came from a Tuscola farming family.

When Gaylord’s father died, he decided to leave the banking business after 10 years with Tuscola First National Bank to take over the family farm.

“I married a banker, so I was shocked when I became a farmer’s wife,” she said with a laugh. “I was a little unhappy about that, but I did like it.”

On the farm, the Gates children– Cindy, Mark, and Julie–raised pet raccoons, a sparrow hawk who fell from its nest, geese, and of course dogs and cats. Rowena taught herself, with a bit of assistance from her mother-in-law, to make cottage cheese and can produce from the garden.

The full story can be found in the Aug. 2, 2017, edition of The Tuscola Journal.