Columbia woman celebrating 100th birthday

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Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson celebrates with Lucille at her 100-year celebratory cake. (submitted photos)

Lucille McKinney, nee Ebel, turned 100 years young on July 22. Reaching 100 years old is an accomplishment only achieved by .0173 percent of Americans.

Lucille is the daughter and only child of the late Charles Ebel and Emma Katherine Ebel, nee Henfling. Her grandmother emigrated from Germany in 1853 at the age of three.  Like other Columbia natives from this era, Lucille did not hear or speak a word of English until she started school at age six.

Her father, co-owner of Ebel & Schmidt Painters and Paper Hangers, was a talented musician playing in bands and orchestras.  Lucille quickly followed in her father’s footsteps. Lucille, taught by her father, was the first girl in Columbia to play the cornet.

Lucille was also the first girl to have and ride a bicycle in town. She paid for it by selling 20 subscriptions to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In 1927, when the village of Columbia became a city, Lucille was 13 years old.

“Oh, how we kids were so excited that we were becoming a city, even though we had no idea what it meant,” she said.

In eighth grade, Lucille played music at Turner Hall during silent movies every Sunday, earning $5 per movie. She recalls admission was 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.

In high school, Lucille asked and was granted permission to start a school paper using the mimeograph machine.

She saved enough money playing music at Turner Hall to take advanced music lessons in St. Louis, traveling by streetcar.

Lucille organized the first Girl Scout troop in Columbia in 1937.

Lucille continued her musical career and accompanied Columbia citizens that visited Columbia’s Sister’s City, Gedern, Germany.

Lucille has seen Columbia develop over the years.  When she was young, she lived on Rapp Street where Eagleview Elementary currently resides.  In 1924, the city bought the Ebel property to expand the two-story public school.

Her father built a bungalow- style house on Metter Avenue. The Ebels’ house had indoor plumbing prior to the city laying sewers.

“My dad was forward-thinking,” she said. “We never went to that little house in the back.”

Lucille respectfully attended grade school, confirmation school, Turning school, high school and college; she was the first in her family to attend and graduate with a college degree.

She earned a bachelor’s degree at Illinois Wesleyan, majoring in music with a minor in PE. Lucille was a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music sorority. Incoming members had to compose their own song as part of their initiation; Lucille’s song was published in SAI’s national songbook.

After attending Illinois Wesleyan, Lucille returned to Monroe County and influenced three of the four district schools (Waterloo, Maeystown and Columbia) to let her teach a formal music curriculum. She earned $100 a month.

After three years of teaching, Lucille returned to Illinois Wesleyan to complete the last six hours of her bachelor’s degree and to marry John McKinney.  The caption on the announcement of their wedding in the local newspaper read, “Popular Columbia Girl Married.”

In honor of her 100th birthday, family and friends made Lucille a celebratory cake similar to the stl250 “Cakeway to the West” decorative cakes displayed across the region. Her cake will be on display through the end of July at the Meadow Ridge neighborhood entrance sign on the corner of Westpark Drive and Tree Ridge Drive.

Lucille attributes her longevity to three things:

“I picked my ancestors carefully, drink plenty of water, and some Estée Lauder on the face helps a lot,” she said.

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