Despite being almost 100 years old, Marcella Klein has not had much excitement in her life.
That’s just the way she likes it.
“We were so busy, we worked so much, but we were content,” Klein said of her upbringing and adulthood. “When you’re in a place that you’re being loved and being appreciated, it didn’t matter then. Some people have everything and they’re not loved, they’re not even appreciated. That makes a difference and helps your longevity.”
Klein, who turns 100 on Feb. 20, was born to Frank Schilling and Clara Neff in a home southwest of Hecker on her grandfather’s farm.
She went to school at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Paderborn, walking about a mile and a half to school each day to be one of 10 children in her class. She has been attending that church as long as she can remember.
After graduating grade school, Klein received a scholarship to go to Belleville West Township High School.
That never happened, however, because she attended other high schools for two years before she needed to stay home to help take care of her six younger brothers and work on the family farm.
Despite that, Klein said she enjoyed her childhood.
“It was good,” she said.
By the time she was 17, Klein would sometimes work for a nearby family.
One of that family’s sons, Ignatius, would take her home sometimes. One night, Ignatius Klein finally asked her on a date to the Millstadt Homecoming in 1937.
Ignatius and Marcella later married.
The couple moved to Marcella’s current home near Floraville, where she has lived for 80 years.
Throughout her life, Marcella has worked a variety of jobs including at a bakery, dairy farm and for various families in the area, getting paid as little as 50 cents a day.
“It was kind of interesting in a way,” Marcella said of her career. “You get to meet different people and learn how different people do different things. It was mostly housework – cleaning houses, taking care of children and so on.”
After Marcella’s seven children were born, she also fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming a religious teacher at her church, instructing children about the basics of the Catholic faith.
Overall, Marcella said most of her life was pleasant in an everyday way.
“It was pretty simple,” she recalled. “You didn’t do anything exciting. You milked the cows. You had to get the (chicken) eggs, you had to clean them, you had to weigh them, you had to carton them, then you had to go to St. Louis to peddle them.”
Marcella rarely traveled in those days, except to go to the doctor, church or a family member’s house for a couple hours on Sunday.
But then it was time to get back to the farm and take care of the animals.
“I never wore lipstick,” Marcella noted, laughing. “The cows and the chickens never cared if I had lipstick on.”
In her retirement, Marcella, who drove until she was 96, has gotten out much more. It can still be hard to find her at home because she is often at church functions, visiting some of her 15 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren or friends, quilting or playing euchre.
“I am really a people person,” she said.
While she has kept up with the modern world as best she can – she has automatic bill pay set up – Marcella said there is one baffling aspect of living in 2020.
“The thing that flabbergasts me the most is smartphones,” she said. “It’s just too smart for me.”
She still has plenty of wisdom of her own to offer, such as supplementing your food with vinegar and honey. She partially credits that with her long life, along with her simple living and her father living to be 102.
“I really don’t know how I got here,” Marcella said. “I led a pretty simple life.”
Individuals wishing to celebrate Marcella’s life can do this Sunday, when St. Michael’s Catholic Church is recognizing her with a Mass and breakfast to follow.