Brownstown seniors celebrate women’s 85th, 90th birthdays



Walking into the Brownstown Senior Citizens Center on Thursday, it was easy to figure out whose birthday everyone was celebrating.

Wearing pink sashes with “Birthday girl” on them, Jean Shelton and Carolyn Wolka were the stars of the party.

The center sets aside time to celebrate birthdays once each month, and attendees are asked to bring a covered dish to share.

January was special because the two women were celebrating milestones. Wolka turned 85 on Jan. 6, and Shelton turned 90 on Jan. 29.

When she initially was told about the party, Shelton thought her daughters, Sharon Fields and Wanda Frady, had planned it. She joked they would “really get a whipping” for doing that, but then she realized it was the center’s members who organized it.

“I liked it. They’ll have to do it more often,” she said, smiling after eating fried chicken, a variety of sides and of course, birthday cake and ice cream.

The party meant a lot to Wolka, too.

“I thought that was real nice,” she said.

Shelton is originally from Seymour and went to school there but didn’t graduate. She then worked for the shirt factory for about eight years and later worked at Nolting’s grocery store and Kmart, from where she retired.

Since retiring, Shelton has volunteered at Community Provisions of Jackson County Inc., which operates a food pantry in Seymour.

“I just like to be around people and get to know them,” she said.

She also regularly visits the senior center, where she enjoys playing games and cards, going out to eat and visiting places in the area.

“They have a pretty good group around here,” she said.

Plus, she likes eating breakfast at Covered Bridge Health Campus in Seymour, attending Driftwood Christian Church and working with flowers.

“I do whatever I take a notion to,” she said, smiling. “I enjoy being around people and doing stuff.”

Wolka was born and raised in Tampico, where she graduated from high school in 1953. She has lived in Brownstown ever since.

She spent 30-plus years working for the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service office in Brownstown. Today, that’s known as Farm Service Agency.

The office staff helped farmers by measuring fields, providing corn loans and more, she said.

“We just did office work, whatever came up,” Wolka said. “I liked the farmers. They were good to work with, and I enjoyed the people I worked with.”

That job also allowed her to travel to different states.

“Employees of ASCS had national conventions, and I’d go to them, and they would be at a different state all of the time,” Wolka said.

Since retiring, Wolka has served as a clerk for absentee voting and Election Day. Jackson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jeanette Hackman asked her to help with elections years ago, and Wolka has continued with it ever since.

“I just enjoy seeing the people, and I like politics,” she said. “It’s just something I enjoy.”

One of her hobbies is playing cards at the senior center and with other groups. She said she likes to get out and be social.

“I like to go,” she said, smiling.

In terms of what she credits to living a long life, Shelton thought about it a minute and then said, “Meanness,” and laughed.

“She told me last night she’s going to live until she’s 104,” Fields said.

For Wolka, she said being active and staying healthy have been key.

“I think just going and doing, not sitting around,” she said. “I had knee replacement, I’ve still got arthritis and all of that, but I’ve never had a serious illness or anything.”

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