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Local man celebrates centennial birthday

July 28, 2010 - By Leah Yanuszeski

All five of Henry Osterkamp’s children celebrated his 100th birthday by his side. Photo by Leah Yanuszeski (click for larger version)
Review Intern

Party attendees would of had a long rendition of 'Are you one, are you two…' after the traditional birthday song on Sunday July 25.

Henry Osterkamp, born July 23, 1910, recently turned 100. He celebrated this accomplishment at the First Free Will Baptist Church of Pontiac this past Sunday.

Born in Nolan, Arkansas to Anna Marie and Tobias Osterkamp, Henry grew up around Pocahontas, Arkansas. He was one of twelve children. Even though limited education was available, he was proficient in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work, as well as general auto repair through self-teaching.

Henry married Zemru Cox on August 19, 1932. Together the newlyweds built their first home.

"Henry cut the trees down himself with a saw and sent the logs to the mill to be made into lumber. It took over a year," said Martha Osterkamp, daughter of Henry.

The Osterkamps owned a 260 acre farm, consisting mainly of cotton and corn. Milk from cows was shipped to St. Louis for money. The farm saved Henry from the draft for World War II; he was more beneficial as a farmer, growing crops, than a soldier.

Henry and his wife moved to Michigan in 1946. He applied at Pontiac Motors, and was hired on the spot. "He worked at Pontiac Motors for 26 years," said Martha, "he's been retired longer than he's worked there." When asked, Henry replied that the automobile was the best invention to date.

In 1956 the Osterkamps and other local families helped start the First Free Baptist Church in Pontiac. Henry continues to work there today, and remains as the last living charter member. Later in 1969, Henry moved to Lake Orion, and has lived and gardened here ever since.

After 72 years of marriage, Zemru Osterkamp passed away at the age of 90. Zemru and Henry had five children- Calvin Osterkamp, David Osterkamp, Paul Osterkamp, Yvonne Matlock (Osterkamp), and Martha Osterkamp.

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