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Hazel Inscho: 'I'm as healthy as most 106-year-olds'



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July 28, 2010 - Hazel Inscho likes to say that if she knew she was going to live this long, she would have taken better care of herself.

It seems she's done all right— particularly since the average life expectancy in the U.S. in 1904—the year she was born—was a paltry 47 and on July 15, Hazel marked her 106th birthday.

In recent years, as July 15 approaches, Hazel has said that she wasn't going to live to be this old, but as long as she is this close, she may as well make it to her next birthday.

On a recent afternoon, the petite, bright-eyed Hazel sits in a wheelchair that she pushes back and forth methodically and chats about the past century of life she has experienced, pointing out with a laugh that she is actually older than 106, with her birthday having passed nearly two weeks before.

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"I'm as healthy as most 106-year-olds," she says nonchalantly and, seemingly oblivious to the irony, adds, "I'm just average I think."

Hazel has passed nearly 11 decades with no major health problems. She never smoked and wasn't much of a drinker— saying she "only had a beer when someone offered, I didn't go looking for them."

Her family members, which include grandson William Pointer and great-granddaughter Sonja Pointer, co-owners of Ortonville business Plumtree Art & Framing, have theories about why Hazel has lived so long— including the large amounts of water that she drinks, the burnt toast she enjoys, or the fruits and vegetables she consumes. But some of the favorite meals of Hazel, who loves to go out to restaurants to eat, include fish and chips, pot roast and her most recent birthday dinner— spare ribs.

Hazel has her own thoughts on her longevity.

"I'm too ornery to die," she laughs. Then, more seriously: "Working helps to keep your mind operating and straight."

It doesn't hurt to have good genes, either. Hazel's mother lived to be 105 and of her 11 children, five, including Hazel, were centenarians.

Hazel was the tenth child born and raised on her parents' farm in Evart, Mich. She played with corncobs for dolls and attended grade school when she was around 7- or 8-years-old in a newly built 1-room schoolhouse.

"We thought that was fun— the recess and games," she recalls. "Reading was the best."

In the early 1920s, Hazel was working as a maid for a wealthy family in Pontiac when she met William Inscho at a dance. They began dating— taking rides in his old Ford Coupe, all he could afford, she smiles. Their wedding in Saginaw in 1926 was a simple affair. They had two children, Shirley and Lorraine, and Hazel said the best time of her life was after she got married. The family moved back to the family farm in Evart for five years during the Great Depression. She remembers they were living on the farm when they heard over the radio about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

World War II is among the historical events Hazel remembers most vividly, although she also has recollection of World War I and even remembers hearing news reports of the sinking of the Titanic April 14, 1912.

Over the years, William Inscho worked as a farmer as well as at a shop, a gas station, and as a milkman in Pontiac. Hazel worked in a dress shop for a few years, as well as a children's store in Pontiac. The couple spent time in Ortonville, visiting Bald Eagle Lake and the Ortonville Hotel. William's brother and sister-in-law, Ivan and Ruby Inscho, managed the restaurant and bar inside the hotel around 1941.

After William retired, he and Hazel traveled North America extensively, including a month spent in Alaska and a few winters in Florida. He died in 1973, a year after their daughter Shirley. Lorraine also preceded her mother in death several years ago.

William Pointer said his grandmother is more like a mother to him. She moved in with his parents when he was in seventh grade and lived on her own for many, many years. Up until she was 105 and had the fall that resulted in her having to use a wheelchair, she lived alone, was very active in her Pontiac church, loved to bake and quilt and played euchre and pinochle. She has always been an avid Detroit Tigers fan and went to a game every year for 15 years, but is unable to go now, William says, because they don't have a suite. She used to know the names of all the players, but wryly notes that she can't remember all their names anymore.

Hazel moved into Canterbury on the Lake, a long-term care facility in Waterford, last year, and now her arthritis is catching up with her, but her grandson comes to see her nearly every day and William says when they play cribbage together, she is better than him.

Sonja is amazed by her great-grandma.

"She's so wise and with it, I think she'll live another five years plus," she said. "I think everyone should meet her. How many people can say they've met a 106-year-old? She's such a blessing and inspiration to other people. A lot of people say they don't want to live to be 100, but I want to live to 100, because I see through her that you can be totally fine at 100 and capable."

Hazel still keeps up with the news as best she can and has been amazed by all the changes in technology. When asked how she thinks society has changed over the course of her life, she said, "When I was younger, things were more peaceful."

She reconsiders.

"There were more wars then, but it's hard to keep track of all the wars. The world has changed greatly in 100 years... It's hard to find peace. Everyone is ready to find a fight."

Asked to share words of wisdom from her many years of experience, Hazel said people need to treat others fairly.

"The more you try to get along, the more you can... The key to happiness is a lot of friends. You try to get along with people even when you don't like someone and sometimes they turn out OK and you find out something good about them, too."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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