Wilma Strahm achieves life long goal of reaching 100 years

Centenarian Wilma Strahm celebrates her 100th birthday on Saturday, October 6, with a birthday party at the Apostolic Christian Home in Sabetha.

One of Wilma Strahm’s goals in life was to turn 100 years old, and she achieved that milestone on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

“She always said turning 100 years old was one of her goals,” said her daughter, Carol Strahm.

Wilma achieved her goal by being positive, staying active, as well as eating good meals.

“She was always physically active and continued walking as long as she could,” Carol said. “She also always prepared good meals. She and Dad enjoyed big meals every day from food they grew, but they always worked it off during the day. They physically worked hard during their lifetime.”

When asked what the key was to a long and happy life, Wilma gave this advice.

“Get along with each other, and don’t be doing any fussing,” she said.

Early Life

The oldest of three daughters born to Glen and Minnie Walker, Wilma was born at home — which was four miles southwest of Sabetha — on Oct. 8, 1918. Her sisters are Mildred — who is 97 years old and lives at the AC Home as well — and Irene, who passed away several years ago.

Wilma Strahm

Since there were only girls in her family, her dad looked to her as the son he never had.

“I was his boy,” she said. “I grew up farming and helped in the field. I could also drive a team of horses.”

While Wilma was growing up, her dad farmed and her mom stayed home working around the house and outside.

“My mom stayed busy with the chickens and milk cows. We also had two big gardens,” Wilma said. “She made all of our food and bread from scratch. The only time we bought food was when my mom brought eggs to town to sell on Saturday night and she might pick up a spice or something, but we butchered and grew everything we needed. We butchered pigs, calves and chickens. We would buy baby chicks, raise chickens, clean them, dress them and put them in a freezer. We put at least 50 chickens in a freezer each year.”

Wilma said that with all of the chickens came a lot of eggs. They used eggs for everything, including baking cookies.

“We had a lot of cookies,” she said. “The sugar cookie was my favorite.”

“Mom raised us all on that sugar cookie,” Carol said. “‘Grandma’s sugar cookies are all of her kids’ and grandkids’ favorite cookie too.”

While growing up, they also had a big orchard and would can 100 quarts of peaches and fruits every year. Wilma said while she was working around the house her sister would be “hiding.”

“We had an old wood stove and while I was working, Millie [Mildred] would sit behind the stove in the cob basket and she would be back there reading a book,” she said. “We wouldn’t see her back there and I would be the one doing most of the work.”

While reminiscing about her childhood, Wilma said everything has changed since those days.

“We have electricity now,” she said. “We used lanterns, and had no plumbing or heating.”

As time went on, she remembered her family’s first phone and first car.

“My dad was a handyman, I guess you would say,” she said. “He fixed a phone from our place to a neighbor’s, which was on a square mile fence line and our first car was a Model T Ford. It had a crank on the radiator on the front of it. My dad paid $400 for it.”


Wilma went to Victory Country School for eight years before she went the Sabetha High School and graduated in 1936.

She said she had her own transportation to school when she was attending the Country School.

“I got to school by a Shetland pony named Billy,” she said. “There were two other families who had horses, and the three fathers built a shed with three stalls that we tied the horses up in while we were at school.”

Since her family lived so far outside of town, when Wilma started attending SHS, she moved into town with her Aunt Fannie Diffenderfer.

“I would go home on the weekends and my parents would come and get me on Friday nights,” she said.

Wilma said her Aunt Fannie tried to teach her how to quilt and was a stickler for getting things right.

“She tried to teach me to quilt,” she said. “She quilted, and I helped with the quilts, or at least I tried, but during the day when I was at school, she would take out what I did and fix it.”

Adult Life

Wilma met her future husband, LeRoy Strahm, while roller skating at Sycamore Springs. They met before World War II, but didn’t start dating until after he returned home. LeRoy was in the Marines for four years in the South Pacific. The war affected him tremendously, and when he returned home he wanted to farm.

They married in 1947 at her parents’ house and were married for 66 years until he passed away in 2013.

They moved into their very first apartment, which was above Popkess Mortuary. They had two children. Donald was born in 1952 and Carol was born in 1955. When their kids were growing up, they lived in the home that he grew up in, which was about 1/4 mile from the Sabetha Lake.

While their kids were in school and LeRoy was farming, Wilma worked at Fred Darval’s Drug Store and Paul Miller’s Drug Store.

“In the drug stores, when prescriptions would come in, I would help count and put the stickers on the bottles,” she said. “I would also type.”

When Wilma wasn’t working in the drug stores, she was busy at home keeping the house up, cooking, butchering, gardening and attending her children’s events.

“We would get 100 chickens in the spring,” she said. “I also helped butcher cattle and hogs, and had two big gardens, a big sweet corn crop and big potato patch.”

Carol remembered how her mom cooked all the time.

“She cooked all the time,” she said. “The only time we ate out was on New Year’s Eve and for school meals. Mom would also put 100 pies in the freezer during the year. She was known for her good cooking, and was always happy to share.”

When LeRoy retired from farming, they moved to town.

“He still wanted to grow things, so he raised roses and flowers,” Wilma said. “He made sure that from the end April to December, I had roses or some kind of flowers on my table. My favorite was the red rose. We had quite an area of our yard that had roses. He would bring the roses in and sometimes put them in water, but if he left them for me to put in the water he would cut the thorns off first.”

LeRoy shared the roses with other people as well. Wilma remembered how he would take roses to the hospital’s therapy department.

“Dad’s aunt and uncle lived in Oregon,” Carol said. “Their business was growing Strahm Lilies. Everyone in the family has Strahm Lilies. He would share those around town but always made sure mom had at least one before he shared.”

In addition to growing flowers, Wilma and LeRoy purchased the Fina Service Station — currently C & K — in the early 1970s, where Wilma became the bookkeeper. They owned the Fina Service Station until the mid 1990s.

Wilma also raised her children in the 4-H program. They were a part of the Busy Jayhawkers, and she was also a leader in the program.

“I enjoyed just keeping busy and learning everything I could,” Wilma said when asked why she liked being a part of the 4-H program. “I was also in a K-State Extension Ladies Group for over 50 years, and each month we would have an educational lesson.”


While their kids were growing up, Wilma and LeRoy kept busy working or attending their kids’ activities, but they also had many of their own hobbies.

They both decided to start a Pinochle card group, that would meet once a month — excluding the summer. They would play with other couples such as the McFalls, Rokeys and Brownlees.

“They took us to Grandma’s house at night when they went to play cards,” Carol said. “It was a special treat for us to go to Grandma’s when they played cards.”

In addition to playing cards, Wilma and LeRoy were very busy supporting causes for veterans, especially since the war affected their lives so much. Wilma was a part of the Sabetha Ladies VFW Auxiliary and the American Legion Auxiliary, while LeRoy was an important part of the Sabetha VFW for approximately 50 years.

The other things they did for fun were roller skating, going to 10-cent movies at the Sabetha theater and fishing. After their kids left home, Wilma and LeRoy also enjoyed going for drives in the country and collecting walnuts.

“In the fall, we collected walnuts,” she said. “We made extra money picking up walnuts, hulling them and picking them out. We did all the steps and then we sold them. LeRoy would be out in the shed cracking them during the day and then at night we would sit at the kitchen table and pick them out. They were big walnuts, too. Not just crumbs.”

Wilma also liked to crochet, and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the recipients.

“She made every child and grandchild at least two afghans,” Carol said. “Then she made baby afghans, for all of the great-grandchildren.”

Traveling also was something Wilma enjoyed.

“We went to Oregon, San Diego and Texas to see family sometimes,” Wilma said.

Four generations

Wilma and LeRoy had two children — Don of Sabetha and Carol of Manhattan.

Wilma also has seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

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