Wise and Wonderful at 104!
On a muggy summer afternoon in the little town of Industry, Illinois, a young widow loaded her four children into the buggy for an 18-mile ride. Maxine Laughlin Polhill remembers those rides well, along with her eighth birthday ("We had a picnic lunch...in the cemetery!") and the agony of losing her father at age nine. "My mother raised the four us, and always drove our buggy. She'd push our horse, Old Dick, into a slow trot 'til we reached a hill. Then we all jumped out to make it easier for Old Dick to get up the slope! My mother made beautiful hats and was a wonderful seamstress. In our rural area, we had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or automobiles, but life was good. We played a lot of card games, and my sister taught me to play Bridge in high school. I've always enjoyed it."
Maxine still joins her friends three times a week for Bridge. Besides wittingly making her bids, you can bet she beats them regularly in another area, too. Maxine, born on 08/08/08 (August 8, 1908), will reach 104-years-young this month, and quite simply demonstrates a good attitude as the demarcation line between those who succeed and those who fail in life.
Common threads of charm, strength, and resilience are woven carefully into this grand lady. "Always keep moving!" she smiled at me, pretty in her bright pink sweater, chatting in her sunny Cypress living room. Combining high energy with an exceptionally strong faith, Maxine practiced what she proposed. There was no money for college, but one of her teachers was determined she should go and found scholarships for her. Maxine jumped happily into her studies at Western Illinois State Teachers College (Western Illinois University now), graduated in three years in 1929, and taught high school home economics in Stockton, Illinois until 1931. "The lady who owned the home where I was staying introduced me to Ray Polhill. I had a boyfriend at home, and my mother said it was unfair to both fellows, and I'd better make up my mind! I married Ray in a white silk suit at home on June 25, 1931."
In 1936 Maxine, Ray, and their three sons, Allen, Ray, and Lee, left Ray's trucking company behind to move to Milledgeville, Illinois, where Ray began an International Harvester farm equipment dealer, a position he held until his death in 1994.
A vibrant spirit, always in high gear, Maxine founded the Carroll County Republican Women's organization in 1943, was Sunday School Superintendent and teacher in their church, all while keeping her family, as well as the church, thriving on her wonderful home-cooked meals. The Republican National Convention welcomed her as an alternate delegate in 1964, and she became Vice-Chairman of the Republican Party of Illinois in 1969. Glancing at a prevailing Abraham Lincoln figure on her end table she said, "I have always admired his honesty and straight-forwardness."
In 1999, Maxine made a life-changing decision to move to Hilton Head Island where son, Lee, and daughter-in-law, Arden, live. "She had never been in a group situation such as The Cypress, and we are so very proud of how well she has adjusted. She is a strong-willed lady with a great positive attitude," offered Arden. "She adores her family, and has been able to attend each of our 50th wedding anniversaries!"
For 98 years Maxine pursued another beloved pastime. "After school I grabbed an apple and some crackers and was off to read." Her son, Lee, laughed, "It's difficult to keep her supplied with books! She reads at least three a week, and found Killing Lincoln and Unbroken especially interesting. She and Dad loved traveling the world, and found Australia one of the most fascinating countries."
Every Sunday morning finds Maxine enjoying the music and sermons at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. "I find the book of Psalms so inspirational." And that's exactly what Maxine's sons and their wives, her seven grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and a growing number of great, great-grandchildren say about her.
For all her new friends, she says about her life, "Well...I never smoked, not much of a drinker, loved to garden with lots of flowers and vegetables around, and greatly appreciate the beautiful surroundings in which I live."
Sitting beside Maxine we learned: For years she gave presentations on The Last Supper to multiple groups. Lee acted as her audience and critiqued her speeches. "Of all the disciples, I like Peter the best," Maxine said thoughtfully.
A Wonderful Surprise: "Christmas Eve, 1922, my mother and I were feeling particularly lonely. It just didn't seem like Christmas. A late knock on our door, and there stood my brother and sister, who had traveled several hundred miles to surprise us.
Statue of Lincoln: Was presented to her for her outstanding work as Vice-Chairman of the Women's Republican Party 1966-1970.
Two best inventions over last 100 years: Polio vaccine and air conditioning