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‘I don’t worry about how old I am’

SHEFFIELD — Blanche E. Hewitt of Sheffield turned 105 years old Wednesday, making her most likely the oldest Bureau County resident.

While some may consider this an achievement, a humble Hewitt sees it as no big deal.

“I just live day-by-day,” she said. “I don’t think much about it.”

Hewitt still lives in her quaint home in Sheffield with her youngest son. She still gets out and about, and local residents often witness her eating at ZBest Cafe on Main in her hometown.

It’s no secret she’s also known to still do a little gambling here and there during trips to the casino in the Quad Cities.

“I like to win,” she laughed.

While it’s amazing to sit and think about the 10.5 decades Hewitt has lived through, the list of significant social changes and great marks in history expand far beyond one page of paper.

Hewitt was born in 1908. She was there through prominent happenings in history such as World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the sinking of the Titanic, the crash of Hindenburg, the first available TV, the start of talking movies, first man to walk on the moon, the comings and goings of 18 presidents and much, much more.

Looking back on them, it’s difficult for Hewitt to remember each specific occurrence. She admits she didn’t pay much attention to things happening in the world.

One era that really comes to mind, however, when she’s given a moment to ponder, is the Great Depression. Hewitt recalls it being a rough time for everybody.

“People think we’re in a depression now, but they haven’t seen anything,” she said.

While Hewitt shakes her head when the topic is brought up, she can remember one memory that gives proof things were tough back in those times.

“People we’re selling pencils on the side of the road just to make a little money,” she said.

Hewitt graduated from Sheffield High School in 1925. She doesn’t remember much about what she was up to at the time or the activities she was involved in. However, she can think back and remember working as a waitress at a local restaurant in town. She worked through her high school years, receiving tips of 5 cents or less. When she had enough money saved up, she purchased her first vehicle at the price of $50.

Her first ride was a black Model T Ford, which had one seat in the front and a rumble seat in the back, which she could flip-up when her friends would get together and they’d drive around the countryside or to dances in neighboring towns.

She said they could fill the gas tank a quarter of the way full and be able to drive around all day with some gas still leftover in the tank.

When thinking back on the Model T Ford, Hewitt remembers taking a particular trip to Starved Rock with friends. While on the way, they were driving along when the front wheel of the vehicle rolled right off.

“A man stopped and helped us. He put the wheel back on, and we were on our way, again,” she laughed.

After high school, Hewitt went to work at the Farmer’s State Bank in Sheffield. She started as a bank teller and worked her way up to be an executive vice president. Her oldest son, Conrad, confirmed she was the first woman to hold an executive position at a bank in the state. She retired from the bank when she was 70 years old.

In 1934, she married Kennison Hewitt. Thinking back on where she first laid eyes on him, she recalls being at a semi-pro football game. He was the player who got hurt in the game.

“I remember seeing him there and felt bad he was hurt and thought I’m going to marry him,” she said.

They didn’t quite meet at that particular football game. It wasn’t until later her friends set her up on a blind date with Kennison, and they hit it off, later married and had three children: Conrad, Helen and Neil.

When one asks Hewitt what her secret is to living to 105 years old, she’s quick to say she doesn’t have one.

“Like I said, I don’t think about it, I just live my life each day,” she said. “I don’t worry about how old I am.”

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