UNIONTOWN — Country living has attributed to Kathryn “Katie” Keith living a long life.
At a young age, she gained experience working on a farm, cooking and doing patchwork.
Later when she married, Keith lived on a farm, where she raised a garden, tended to a flower garden, milked cows, sold eggs, churned butter, crocheted, quilted, did ceramics and cooked and baked everything from scratch.
That style of living led to her reaching a milestone. Today is the Uniontown woman’s 100th birthday.
Her sister lived to be 92, and she told her granddaughters, Kathie Rose and Suzy Hougland, she was going to live to be 100.
“She said, ‘I’m going to beat her, and I’m just going to keep on going.’ She has,” Hougland said.
Keith said hard work helped her make it to 100. Her family agrees.
“I attribute her life to hard work and her faith,” said Hougland, who lives a few miles away south of Seymour.
Of her grandmother turning 100, Hougland said, “To me, it’s exciting. I think it’s wonderful. It truly is amazing. To me, it really is. She has done a lot in her life. She really has. I brag on her all the time.”
Keith’s oldest son, Tom, lives nearby and appreciates everything she has done for him.
“She has been an awful good mom. I can’t complain,” he said, smiling.
Born Jan. 27, 1922, Kathryn Albertson lived in Vallonia in Washington County “way up in the hills” and went to school there until her family moved to Crothersville. She went to school there one year, 1940, when she was a senior.
When she was 12, she spent the summer working for a large Dutch farm in Vallonia so she could earn money to pay for her schoolbooks.
“Her cousin, Omer Morgan, he worked out in the field, so that was the only person she knew,” Hougland said. “She stayed inside with the lady and the lady’s daughter. They did all of the meal prep. They took snacks out to the farm like mid-morning out in the field, prepared lunch, did dishes, worked from sunup to sundown. In their spare free time, they darned socks, they did patchwork on clothes and socks.
After graduating from high school, Kathryn said she worked at Excello Shirt Factory in Seymour sewing shirts.
On July 11, 1942, she married Lewis Keith. They went to school and graduated together.
On Dec. 22 that year, Lewis began his service with the U.S. Army in World War II. His service ended Oct. 22, 1945.
For a couple of years, Kathryn lived in Alexandria, Virginia, until Lewis went overseas.
“They didn’t have housing, you didn’t live on base, so she rented a room from a couple and then she toured all of Washington, D.C., all by herself,” Hougland said. “When all of these other military ladies would come in, they would hook up with Grandma and she would take them all over D.C. and just show them around. That was back in wartime, so you couldn’t go into a lot of the (attractions).”
Upon leaving the military, Lewis was offered land to live in Alaska, but he chose to return to his parents’ farm in Crothersville.
Kathryn said Lewis helped his father on the farm and at one point began working for Cummins Engine Co. in Columbus and still worked on the farm. Lewis wound up working at Cummins for nearly 30 years, retiring as a forklift driver.
Kathryn, meanwhile, worked until the first of her four children, Allene, was born. Then she stayed home. Their other children are Anita, Tom and Ted.
The family wound up moving east of Uniontown along State Road 250 in a home previously occupied by a doctor.
They didn’t have any running water at that house, and they didn’t have a television until 1956. Tom said they had four channels — 3, 4 and 11 — and the first thing they watched was the running of the Kentucky Derby.
“The horse that won was called Needles,” he recalled.
A new house was built on nearby property in 1968, and that’s where Kathryn still lives today.
The country living she was raised on continued in Uniontown, where she milked cows and had chickens and sold the milk and eggs and also raised a garden and a flower garden. She took the butter and eggs to the grocery store and traded them for flour and sugar. She also picked corn and froze bags of it and canned green beans and tomatoes.
“When I think of farm living, I think of Grandma because she truly lived off the farm,” Hougland said.
Kathryn always cooked and baked everything from scratch, including her famous Valentine’s cookies, her husband’s favorite angel food cake, candies at Christmas, egg noodles, pies, cakes, yeast rolls and other bread.
When the family gathered for holidays, Kathryn always was the cook. That started at her house, and when they outgrew that space, they moved to the garage. Then when they outgrew that, the family met at the fire station in Crothersville.
“We’ve always stayed pretty close as far as a big family. It’s really good. (Kathryn) has always been the hub. This is the hub. This is the place to come,” Hougland said.
“For me, I do a lot of family stuff. My kids know family is a big deal because if you don’t have family, what do you have?” Rose said.
When asked what family means to her, Kathryn smiled and said, “Everything.”
While Kathryn doesn’t cook much these days, she helps peel potatoes and do other things to help. Hougland and Rose do the food prep.
“When we want the honest truth of what we cook, how it tastes, we bring it to Grandma and it gets the Katie seal of approval or it doesn’t,” Hougland said.
With gardening these days, Ted and his wife handle that for Kathryn.
“Up until she had a heart attack, she would go out there on a John Deere Gator and go up there and be a supervisor and help with gardening,” Hougland said.
Outside of cooking, baking and gardening, Kathryn enjoyed quilting, crocheting and ceramics.
“Lewis’ older sister is the one that taught me how to put quilts together,” Kathryn said. “I had an older sister that showed me patterns and helped me cut them out.”
She taught herself how to crochet, and she and her best friend, Frankie Hine, did ceramics together.
“They did everything together. It was a sister from another mother,” Hougland said. “I can’t count the number of coffee mugs and those big wash bowls with the pitcher that are still around here, animal figures. You name it, they did it. They would get together and paint and do that and then Frankie would fire it for them (in the kiln) and do the glazing.”
Faith also has been a big part of Kathryn’s life. She became a member of Bethany Baptist Church in Crothersville and later went to Cana United Methodist Church in nearby Paris Crossing after she got married.
She never became a member of Cana, but she contributed money toward projects there and was a faithful member, always wearing a dress and a felt hat.
Kathryn always drove a Cadillac, but she stopped driving anywhere but church when she was rear-ended by a truck in Seymour when she was in her 90s.
Lewis died in 2002, and Kathryn never remarried after their 60-year marriage.
“He had severe rheumatoid arthritis, and he was bedridden for four years,” Hougland said. “When it got taxing on (Kathryn), she was his sole caretaker, she wouldn’t let anyone help. She bathed him every day, had a hospital bed in his room. She kept him spotless and did everything her own. She took care of him. I can count literally two times that she let me help in four years.”
Over the years, Kathryn has gone through various health issues. When she was younger, she had throat cancer and was bitten by a brown recluse spider. In late 2017, she had staph pneumonia and the doctor suggested calling the whole family in to say their goodbyes.
“It was just her and I in the hospital room, the rest of the family had gone, and I said, ‘Do you feel like you’re ready to die?’ because I’ve always just shot it straight with her,” Hougland said. “She said, ‘Kid, I had a talk with the Lord, and I told him I am excited to meet you, but I’m not ready to meet you right now, and there are things I still want to do on Earth.’ And she looked at me and said, ‘Plus, I’ve got to keep an eye on you.’”
Kathryn also once had two hip surgeries in one year, had a mild heart attack in 2020 and contracted COVID-19 after Thanksgiving last year.
“She has survived a lot. She has beaten a lot of odds,” Hougland said. “She’s tough — a tough woman.”
For her 100th birthday, with the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, people are invited to come by her home at 9870 W. State Road 250 and see her through the window, take pictures and enjoy cupcakes and cookies.
Since she achieved her goal of making it to 100, what’s her next goal?
“110,” Kathryn said, smiling.