Community

105 and sharp as a tack

Loraine Ogden looks back on 105 years

Loraine Ogden, age 43, at her home on 31st Street SE in Cedar Rapids. (Photo courtesy of Loraine Ogden)
Loraine Ogden, age 43, at her home on 31st Street SE in Cedar Rapids. (Photo courtesy of Loraine Ogden)
/

According to Loraine Ogden, the worst part about being 105 years old is being too weak to walk and write.

“Living in a chair isn’t easy. Everything falls on the floor,” she said.

Ogden was mentioned in a Gazette article last year about centenarians living at Cottage Grove Place. The online version of the article found its way to one of Ogden’s distant cousins living in California, Janet Mercurio, who began trading letters with Ogden.

The strength is gone from Ogden’s hands, rendering her too weak to write her letters to Mercurio herself, so she dictates them to her caretakers at Cottage Grove, where she still lives.

“I wish had more strength,” Ogden said, carefully adjusting herself in her chair. “I don’t go off this floor very often. I haven’t been out. I’d love to get out of doors once in a while.”

Ogden was her parents’ only child. Her mother, Esther Chado, was of Swedish descent, and her father, Tony Chado, was the son of Sicilian immigrants Maria “Teresa” Mercurio and Filippo Gucciardo.

“I’m half Swedish, half Italian, all Yankee,” she said, chuckling as she produced a grainy color photograph of her father from a rolling stack of shelves.

Ogden’s father was strict.

“He wouldn’t let me go out. I never went to the prom or anything like that. He didn’t go for boys, not at all,” Ogden said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

 

Instead, she was required to work at the Colonial Theater on the west side of Cedar Rapids, selling tickets.

Ogden learned to make change when she was 8 years old and spent the rest of her childhood running the ticket counter while her father manned the projector and her mother played live piano to accompany the otherwise silent films.

Ogden’s father may have intended to keep her away from boys by having her busy at work, but he wasn’t successful. While working the box office at the Iowa Theater in Winterset in her late teens, Ogden met her future husband, Edward Ogden, who was then working as a doorman at the theater.

Loraine and Edward went their separate ways for a time after she turned 18 and moved to Chicago to live with her mother. She stayed in Chicago for a year before returning to Cedar Rapids to live with her grandmother, just as the Great Depression was beginning.

It was after returning to Cedar Rapids that she ran into Edward Ogden again.

“The funny thing is I met him the day I got back. I knew him by then of course, and he asked me for a date that night. It was New Year’s Eve. I was my own boss by that time — I was 18 years old — so I went,” Loraine Ogden said.

For several years Edward Ogden had a hard time getting work that paid enough to support a wife, preventing the couple from marrying.

During that time Ogden worked in an office during the weekdays and spent her weekends cashiering at a grocery store from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Unable to stand in one place for such a long period of time, Ogden cashiered while seated on the stools used to stock groceries.

“There was very little money. Whatever you had, you spent for groceries,” she said. “That went on too long. Most everybody was in a bad way.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Eventually Ogden got a job that paid $15 an hour in the business office at St. Luke’s Hospital, where she worked for three years before Edward Ogden landed a job as a traveling salesman for McKesson Pharmaceuticals. They got married and moved to Marshalltown.

While living in Marshalltown, Ogden took up table tennis; she kept at it even after she and her husband moved back to Cedar Rapids a few years later, and twice won the title of table tennis champion. Apart from her success with table tennis, Ogden said her one “heroic deed” was the act of saving a dog’s life.

“I was in my house and I looked out the kitchen window in the yard back of me and there was a dog hanging by his neck at the collar,” she said.

The dog, an Irish Setter, had a habit of getting loose and running off, so its owner took to locking it in the garage during the day.

“But he left the window open, so the dog jumped out the window. And he didn’t reach the ground. So I ran over there and put my arm around his body and held him up. He was gasping for air,” Ogden said.

Ogden held the dog up with one arm and worked the dog’s collar off with the other hand.

“Finally I got it unhitched and threw the collar back in the garage. The dog dropped down on the floor and started running, so he was all right,” Ogden said.

If she hadn’t been home in the middle of the day nobody would have come to free the dog, and he would have died. That, she said, was one of her proudest moments.

Several years later, Edward Ogden retired from his job as a traveling salesman. He stayed at home like Ogden for all of five weeks before taking a job at a grocery store pharmacy, where he continued to work for 10 years.

All told, the Ogdens were married for 57 years.

“He wanted to make it 60, but it wasn’t to be,” Ogden said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Edward Ogden smoked cigarettes for much of his life, and died of emphysema in 1996 at the age of 84.

In 2009, at the age of 100, Ogden moved out of her 31st Street home of “50-some” years.

“I stayed in the house as long as I could. A neighbor took me aside and said I had to move because I was alone,” Ogden said.

Ogden has lived at Cottage Grove for the last five years. She seems to have inherited her longevity from her father, who died at age 99.

“He had a sister that was 103 and the other was 102 and another was 100. And I came along, but I never expected to live so long like that,” Ogden said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8514; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.