Another Pal resident turns 100
Earlier this year, lifelong Palmyra resident Pearl Rainbolt turned 100 years old.
Last week, less than a half-mile west of her home along U.S. 150 in the small, northern Harrison County town, a friend since their teenage years also became a centenarian.
Elsie Steerstedter Jacobi, who was born Aug. 24, 1913, in Depauw to Andrew and Ella Steerstedter, says she has no reasoning behind her longevity. She has two sisters who are well into their 90s.
‘I eat pretty well and I loved to exercise, but really, God only knows,’ Elsie said Monday. ‘I’m kind of an acrobat, so maybe that’s it. I was in a tree once and someone cut the tree down with me in it. They thought it was funny, but I didn’t. It just stung my feet a little.’
One of Elsie’s four surviving children, Jean Hess, recalled that her mother, who is a two-time cancer survivor, was able to stand on her head until age 70.
‘It’s probably because my head is the only thing that hasn’t been operated on,’ Elsie quipped.
Elsie married her late husband, Henry, on Thanksgiving Day in 1931 when she was 18. They met at a dance, she said.
Henry started Jacobi Sales, which is located near where Elsie lives. The couple had five children: Jean, Elaine, Carroll, Phillip and a fifth child, who died of diphtheria at a young age. Henry passed away in 1989 after 58 years of marriage.
Elsie’s been through a lot and has seen much in her 100 years.
She recalls driving through Palmyra with her sister at about 10:30 one night in the 1930s when, for an unknown reason, the sky ‘lit up as bright as day’ for about 30 seconds.
‘(My sister and I) looked at each other and didn’t tell a soul. It was like daytime. We never knew what it was,’ Jacobi said.
When Hess tried to tell her mother the event happened specifically in 1938, the spunky Elsie replied, ‘Wanna bet?’
‘What do these squirts know?’ Elsie jokingly asked a writer.
Henry and Elsie’s home burned in 1937 and the family lived in the Martin Hotel for a while as their home was rebuilt.
Elsie recalls the days when people would use long rods with a flame on one end to light lanterns on street corners in downtown New Albany and says some technology today isn’t really needed.
‘I don’t really like cell phones. People use one hand to type on them and drive at the same time and they don’t pay attention to the road,’ Elsie said. ‘That’s just too much. I have a rotary phone over there that works just fine.’
Of the 17 U.S. presidents who have held office during her lifetime (all of them she remembers, including the first, Woodrow Wilson), she believes Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most knowledgeable.
‘He took us out of the Great Depression. He died while in office, but there’s a reason he was elected four times,’ Elsie said. ‘Dad instilled it in me to want to know who was president. I think Barack Obama is doing the best he can.’
Elsie likes to draw (faces and birds are her favorite subjects) and she has traveled around the world. She still travels to Lake Wells, Fla., each winter: ‘It probably has saved my life going down there,’ she said.