In just a few days, Ida West Lindner will join rare company. As of July 27, she will be part of the less than 1% of the U.S. population 100 years of age or older.
“I used to always say 7-27-21, now I have to say 7-27-1921 because this is ‘21,” she said.
West Lindner was born in southern Indiana and spent approximately the first 30 years of her life there before moving to Missouri, then Florida, back to Missouri and finally Kentucky.
West Lindner was the fourth of nine children and grew up during the Great Depression. While her family didn’t have much to eat, her parents made sure she didn’t notice.
“There’d be a lot of times, especially in the summer, in order to make it look good, my dear little momma would fix a picnic and call to us and say, ‘Meet me under the tree, we’ll have a picnic,’” she said. “Well, if she would’ve spread that little amount on the table and have us sit around it, it wouldn’t have looked good.”
During the Great Depression, West Lindner was the only one who made money in her family. A family hired her to work Monday morning to Friday evening washing dishes and helping take care of their children.
“I made $2.50 a week, which was the only money coming in to our house, and I would go to this grocery store and spend $2.25 a week. I kept a quarter back for me, and I would bring in more groceries than we could carry at that time,” she said.
Despite everything, West Lindner said she was always happy.
“We weren’t unhappy,” she said. “I was from a very happy family. My parents were both Christians and they were happy. We sang a lot. We didn’t have much to eat but we didn’t care. We didn’t know any different. We just had such a simple way of life and it’s not that simple now. It’s very complicated.”
As a child, West Lindner’s father sold insurance before being called into ministry.
“When he got the call, it was like Moses,” she said. “He told Him (God), ‘No I can’t do that, I’m not educated enough,’ and he said at that time, ‘If you really want me to go into the ministry, you’re going to have to knock me down.’ That’s what Dad told God. And some time after that, a few years after that, he was talking on the telephone and lightning struck that telephone wire and threw him across the floor, and he got up and said, ‘I guess I’ll go into the ministry.’”
At the time, her father worked in Yankeetown, Indiana, while West Lindner worked in Evansville. One winter day, she got on the bus when she noticed two men waiting to get on as well.
“I saw some guys standing around to get on. There were two of them together and one of them, oh he was so good looking. I thought you know, if they get on this bus, those boys are going to sit on the back row,” she said.
Sure enough, the boys sat in the back row, one next to West Lindner and one on the other side. The boy on the other side offered the other boy a quarter to switch seats to be next to her, but he wouldn’t do it.
“He wouldn’t sell me for a quarter,” she said. “I got out at my parents’ house. He saw where I lived and he got the address out of something or he got the phone number and he called me. We dated eight weeks and were married for 47 years.”
The couple had two sons. The oldest son, Larry, passed away in 1999.
West Lindner’s husband Roy started a plastic manufacturing plant in Missouri. After suffering a heart attack, the couple moved to Florida before returning to Missouri after Roy recovered. While in Missouri, West Lindner met her current husband at the bowling lanes where she worked. She was in charge of coordinating bowling leagues and Mel worked as an Air Force recruiter.
He came into the lanes to eat lunch several times, and one day West Lindner asked him if he and his wife bowled.
“I asked him if he bowled and he said yes. I said does your wife, he said yes, and I said I need both of you, so we just started running together. My husband, Roy, and all four of us ran together for a long time,” she said.
On a Sunday morning, Mel called West Lindner to tell her that his wife passed away. West Lindner has just gotten home from the hospital where her husband died. The two agreed to be their own support group.
“Six months later, we were married,” she said.
“And I’m still supporting you,” Mel replied.
West Lindner bowled until she was 95. She is almost blind, but said she could see the marks and people would tell her which pins she left standing. At 95, she averaged a 135, but for years her average was around 170.
In nearly 100 years, West Lindner has faced a great number of challenges, including diseases. The current COVID-19 pandemic reminded her of the smallpox outbreak years ago, in which her family had to quarantine for six weeks at their house. Once the quarantine was lifted, the family had to leave for the night to have their house fumigated, but West Lindner’s mother was prepared.
“She knew exactly what to do,” West Lindner said. “She took a bunch of clean quilts and clean clothes and everything and put them in the car. When our quarantine was up, they fumigated the house and we had to be out for overnight. We went to the car and there were blankets and things, and we slept in the hayloft on the quilts. They wouldn’t do that now.”
Ida was named after both of her grandmothers. Ida was her Grandma Martin’s name and Elizabeth was her Grandma Wallace’s name.
When she lived in Sarasota, Fla., she met another woman named Ida Elizabeth West. The local hair salon would get them confused, so West Lindner eventually was Little Ida and West was Big Ida. To make things more interesting, West Lindner was born on July 27 and West was born a few weeks before her in July. When Big Ida passed away, many in town went to the funeral home thinking it was West Lindner.
“Carol, my little neighbor, cried for two days until they could get to the funeral home, and she said the nearer they got to that casket, the slower she walked because there was too much of her sticking out to be me,” West Lindner said. “And that director said, ‘What is it?’ and she said, ‘Well this is not the Ida West I wanted’ and he said, ‘We’ve had several people come by.’”
West Lindner called it “like a dream” to be turning 100, since no one in her family had lived to be 100 or close to it. Her secret, she said, is to “eat little and laugh a lot.” She also gave a piece of life advice for younger generations to follow, and it is something she follows to this day.
“Trust in the Lord,” she said. “He knows, and it may not be what you would want, but that’s the best plan as far as I’m concerned. You just lean on the Lord, not on your own understanding.”
Abby Hooven can be reached at email@example.com.