Ivanelle Stone turns 99

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Ivanelle "Nell" Stone, 99, wakes up each morning eager for the day. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

On July 26, Ivanelle “Nell” Stone  of Guttenberg waited patiently for guests to arrive so she could celebrate her 99th birthday at the River Living Center.  

Nell was born in 1923 and grew up on a farm near Communia. "I walked to school in Elkport – five miles each way," Nell told The  Press. "I had three brothers, milked a lot of cows, played basketball in school, and even de-tasseled corn." 

The spirited young woman, known for climbing the windmill, hitch- hiked to Rockford, Ill., with her friend, Helen, following their high school graduation from Littleport High School. "We were in search of adventure and steady employment," she said with a smile. 

Nell eventually met her first husband, Harold Witham. The couple was married for 25 years and had four children. Surviving are her son, Glen Witham, and daughter, Patti Drexler, and step-daughter, Cathy Sutherland, from her second marriage to Cecil Stone. "Both my husbands are buried in the same cemetery," she commented. 

"My sister died of pneumonia when she was three months old, and my brother died of disease of the pancreas when he was five years old," Drexler explained.   

The Withams began their marital journey farming near Edgewood. They would eventually relocate to Cedar Rapids for work. "We were married for 25 years when we moved to Cedar Rapids," Nell noted. 

Nell was working at Weyerhauser in Cedar Rapids when she met her second husband, whom she was married to for 37-years. "In 1982, we moved to Guttenberg following retirement, and I have lived here in the trailer park ever since."

Drexler shared her mother's secret for longevity. "Mom was always on the go. She has a very positive attitude – nothing gets her down," she pointed out. "She also never wanted to miss out on anything, and doesn't like to be alone. She gets up every morning and asks 'What's next?'" 

Nell drove her own car until she was 94 years old. "I loved to go with my friends. We liked to play bingo and go to the casino or go bowling," said Nell. "We would have fun and run. We went to Hawaii in 1972, and went on a cruise in 2009."

She went on to say, "I lived independently until I was 98 and a-half-years-old before I came to River Living assisted living. I am getting used to living here and have made some good friends. I get along well with others so I had a few friends before I came."

Nell is the oldest living member of St. John's Church in Guttenberg. "Pastor Ashman had church members sign cards, so Nell had 49 cards to open up this morning," shared Drexler.  

Remaining mobile is important to Nell, she has only recently needed a cane for assistance. "I took the room at the end of the hall so I could get my exercise. Some days I wish I would have taken one a little closer," she laughed. 

Nell has 13 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, and nine great-great grandchildren, whom she recently enjoyed a celebratory dinner with at the Clayton Lighthouse in Clayton. "They are keeping me pretty busy. I don't have much time for sitting around or taking naps," she commented. 

The fearless nonagenarian once killed what she thought was a rat. "A couple of years ago I was watching television when something moved across the kitchen counter. I thought it was a rat," she recalled. "I squashed it with the broom handle, threw it in a box and hit it on the head with a hammer. I didn't know I had a possum until Patty's husband came and identified it."

Nell and her friends, who enjoy an occasional cocktail, have a special toast. "We say, 'Here's to ya, here's to ya again, if you get it and don't do it, you will never get to it again!'"

Patty commented, "She likes to drink wine and loves to dance." 

"I won't contradict that!" Nell concluded with a laugh.

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