By David Fleet
Ortonville— Ask Louise Hutchins the secret to a century of life and her answer is simple: “Keep busy.”
Louise, the grandmother of Atlas Township resident and Atlas Real Estate owner Jeff Dawley, will celebrate her 100th birthday on Dec. 19 with friends and family.
Louise was born the second youngest child of Besse and Andrew French of Bangor, Wisconsin in 1922.
“My parents were farmers,” said Louise. “My mother’s family came from Norway. When they got off the boat in New York City, they (traveled west and) went up the Mississippi landing in LaCrosse which is on the (Mississippi) River not far from Bangor. In 1926 my parents thought the grass was greener in Michigan so we moved to Evart (Michigan) when I was 4-years-old.”
Evart is located in rural Osceola County, about 26 miles west of Clare.
Since the family lived on a farm they were not impacted by the Great Depression in 1929, she added.
“My parents fed us and we had clothes,” she said. “We did not hurt for food and the income from our milk cows purchased our clothes or other items. We did not have electricity either, so the only radio required batteries. A windmill brought in the water to the house, we had oil lamps and an outhouse. None of us knew anything different growing up, I picked berries, and had a pickle patch for money, I could get a hair perm for $1.”
In 1928, Louise attended a one-room country school near Evart.
“We walked about a mile each way to school everyday,” she said. “One teacher with eight grades all together. After a few years Evart consolidated and we could then ride the bus to high school. When the buses started picking up students a lot more (students) attended school, since they now had transportation.”
“All the high school teachers wore suits where I attended,” she said. “I graduated in 1941 and that was a special day. Everyone came to town to celebrate. Then World War II started and soon after I learned to drive a car. That same year electricity came to our home.”
After graduation, Louise moved to Pontiac and lived with her brother Joe, where she attended a business institute. While attending classes and working at a local restaurant she met Dayton Hutchins, a Lapeer native who was working for General Motors.
“We married in 1942, and that same year he was drafted in WWII,” she said.
Dayton served in Europe for about three years. During his stint he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. While overseas, Louise had their first child, Prudence.
“He wrote home to me everyday,” she said. “When the war started it took a month to get a letter from Europe, by the end of the war they came daily.”
Dayton came home on furlough and met Prudence when she was five months old. He was discharged from the Army in 1945.
The couple moved to Pontiac and then Clarkston in 1950. Their son Craig was born in 1951.
Dayton died in 1996 after 54 years of marriage. Both Dayton and Louise worked for General Motors, she retired at 59-years-old.
Louise, who at 85-years old frequented local gyms for a work out, reflected on 100 years.
“It’s all about staying busy,” she said. “I’ve never been afraid of work. Dayton and I did not hire people to work (on projects), we did it ourselves.”
Louise has remained an active member of the local Methodist Churches in Goodrich, Clarkston and Ortonville.
“We’ve done a lot of good projects together as a church and had great fellowship, all my friends I met through the church, they are wonderful people,” she said. “My recommendation is to stay involved with people, I eat just about anything except I don’t care for alcohol. Keep on moving and keep in touch with friends and family.”
The couple has four grandchildren Katie, Matt, Jeff and Chris.
By David Fleet