Mayenschein took a few minutes out of his day to sit down and discuss the past and share a few things he believes are key to living to be one hundred -- and some of his secrets might be surprising. He is able to stay in his home due to the care of a home health aide and nurses who help him from White River Home Health Care. Lori Gentry, a representative with the company, said Mayenschein is the first of their patients to reach 100 years old. She said the help he receives through White River allows him to remain independent and not have to go into a nursing home.
Mayenschein seemed as if he were much younger, with the only aid required being a walker. He was very bright, friendly and fun and his eyes gleamed as he shared the story of his life and reflected on many memories.
Born Dec. 20, 1910, in Wisconsin, Mayenschein was the youngest of four. He was raised on a farm, as were most people during that time. The family utilized everything. He said there were cattle, sheep, hogs and just about any other farm animal.
He told of the one room school house he attended until he reached eighth grade. Laughing he said, "There wasn't any biology or that kind of thing. Reading, 'ritin' and 'rithmatic' were the only subjects taught during this time."
After school, Mayenschein met his wife at a Wednesday Bible study and they were married shortly thereafter in 1936. With great pride in his voice, Mayenschein, who lost his wife Maxine recently, said they were married nearly 74 years.
The couple waited for eight years before having children. Eventually, the couple would be parents to three sons and a daughter.
Mayenschein also talked about his career and working years. He said he wrote an exam for a civil service job in Wisconsin and went to work in the North Wisconsin School. During his first year, he worked in the punishment building and later, moved to the teen detention facility. His career was similar to that of a juvenile detention officer.
During this time, many families were displaced because of the Depression and many children were placed in the facility because their families could not deal with them, due to behavior or other problems. For four and half years, he worked at the school before moving to Illinois and taking a job at Abbot Laboratories, in Waukegan, Illinois He said, during this time, he was making 45 cents an hour and thankful for the wage, as jobs were hard to come by.
He began working as a "chemical man" and ended up as a lab technician, working the research laboratory. Mayenschein remained with Abbott for 31 years, until his retirement, which ultimately led him to Cherokee Village.
During his employment with the company, World War II broke out and Uncle Sam attempted to draft Mayenschein, but due to the importance of his job at Abbott, he was excused from service.
During the war, he was working on defense products, including Sulpha antibiotics. These were a staple for the military and the first line of defense against infection and treatment of injuries incurred by soldiers. Mayenschein also was instrumental in testing and creating Halazone, the product used to put in water to purify and make it safe for drinking for soldiers serving overseas.
Mayenschein said he did not get any time off until after the war was over.
During his life in Illinois, he and his wife did volunteer work, attended church services, and enjoyed gardening.
When asked if there was any secret he felt was important to helping him achieve such a long life, Mayenschein said, "No smoking, no drinking and no fast food." When asked if he really never took a drink, considering all life throws at one, he said, "No, never."
He said his family always had meals together and said they "went to church, followed the Bible and tried to do the Golden Rule."
There must be some truth to his words of wisdom, as a century of life is pretty good evidence to support his statements.
Mayenschein will be celebrating his birthday Dec. 20 from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Cimarron restaurant in Ash Flat. The public is welcome to come by and help him to celebrate.
He smiled and explained his family had sent a write up to Willard Scott and said there would be a piece aired on him during the Today Show on NBC on Dec. 16. For anyone wishing to watch the segment, Mayenschein said it was due to air sometime between 8 and 10 in the morning.
Through many years of life, Mayenschein has made his mark on the world and the Villager Journal wishes him many more happy years.