I found this article about “America’s Oldest Worker”, Mildred Heath, of Overton Nebraska. Of course I don’t really believe that anything a person has been doing for 85 years should be called work.
Since Mildred is still a member of the National Rifle Association I don’t think anyone is going to try to move her out of her desk anytime soon.
ARLINGTON, VA (PRWEB) September 24, 2008:
Experience Works, announced today that Mildred Heath of Overton, Neb., is America’s Oldest Worker for 2008. Mrs. Heath received the award today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Mildred Heath at the Beacon-Observer: Experience Works names 100-year-old journalist from Overton, Neb., as America’s Oldest Worker for 2008.
Love for life and for working with people is what has kept this newspaperwoman going in the 85-year-long career she started in 1923 at the age of 15. At that point, high-schooler Mildred Nelson considered it, “just natural” to take a job at her hometown newspaper, the Curtis Enterprise (Curtis, Neb.), to work alongside her sweetheart, Blair Heath. There, she taught herself to operate a Linotype – a machine that turned hot lead into lines of type for the printing press. “I got really good at it,” she says with pride, “but the lead was really hot.” She still carries burn marks from those early days.
In 1927, after graduating from school, Mildred Nelson married her newspaper boyfriend, and in 1929 they bought the Farnam Echo, beginning a family and publishing partnership that now involves three generations. In 1938, the couple moved to Overton where they founded the Overton Observer. For many years, the Heaths lived in rooms behind the Observer office with their three daughters, Donella, Polly and Barbara, who were literally born into and grew up in the newspaper business. In 1948, they purchased the Elm Creek Beacon and later combined the newspapers.
Mrs. Heath’s son-in-law, Norm Taylor, became a journalist because of her. “I kept coming around to date their daughter Polly, but Mrs. Heath put me to work instead,” he laughs. Mr. Taylor became a writer for the Beacon-Observer, later married Polly, and the couple eventually bought the newspaper. “Her work is what keeps her vibrant,” he remarks. The Taylors’ daughter, Gail Johnson, now works alongside her grandmother, helping to publish the Observer. Mrs. Heath says working at the newspaper, with family, gave her the opportunity to do what she enjoys most.
Many times Mrs. Heath kept the newspapers going almost single-handedly, through financial, health and natural disasters, such as the stock market crash when they bought the first paper, her husband’s critical illness and his death, the devastating flood of 1947 and the blizzard of 1949.
To this day, Mildred Heath doesn’t let anything keep her from working 30 hours each week, commuting one block from her apartment to her office on an electric scooter to compensate for breaking her hip six years ago. Doing whatever she can to help, she takes classified ads, files photographs, and seeks out local news.
Called “Overton’s lifeline” for keeping people connected with their community, she is the first to grab incoming faxes, and instead of greeting people with “Good morning,” she typically asks, “Got any news?”
Even at a big gathering to celebrate her 100th birthday, Mrs. Heath kept a notepad and pen handy to gather news for that week’s paper.
Now possibly the oldest working journalist in the country, according to the Nebraska Press Association, Mildred Heath has seen dramatic changes in the newspaper business. She believes the computer is responsible for many of those changes, making publishing the newspaper easier and quicker. Norm Taylor says, “Mildred adapted to the new technology quickly. When we got our first computers, she just sat down and taught herself how to use them.” Mrs. Heath also recalls that they had to send film away to be developed, which took lots of time. Today pictures are ready for print almost instantly.
Involved in many civic efforts, Mildred Heath has aided in planning the Dawson County Historical Society, starting the Overton Community Center, getting a library and sewer system, and inaugurating congregate meals at the Overton Community Senior Center, where she is secretary of the board of directors. Additionally, she is active in the United Methodist Women, American Legion, Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Rifle Association.
At age 100 plus, despite the fact that she has outlived her three daughters and has four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, Mrs. Heath has no plans for retirement and talks about all the things she wants to do, at work and at home.