THEATER REGULAR: Vera Peace, right, sits in her favorite seat at Country Time Music Theater in Coffeyville, Kan. The 106-year-old music lover was joined by Thelma Francis, a fellow assisted living resident.
Vera Peace never misses a show at her favorite country theater. You can find her every first and third Saturday sitting in the front row at Country Time Music Theater in Coffeyville, Kan., anticipating the tunes that will be on tap for the evening. There is nothing remarkable about this scenario except for one thing - Peace celebrated her 106th birthday this year.
She was born in 1901 in Kentland, Ind. She met her future husband, Carl, at a fundraiser in 1920. They married the next year, raised three daughters, and stayed together until his death in 1982.
After moving to Coffeyville, Peace went to work for the H.W. Read Department Store, where she was employed in the ready-to-wear section. She was often awarded a coat for selling the most coats.
To earn extra money, Peace baked cakes to sell. She specialized in angel- and devil's-food cakes. Some of her baking took place during World War II, a time when many food items had to be purchased with ration stamps. Peace would trade with friends and neighbors, exchanging detergent stamps for sugar and flour stamps to have the ingredients for her cakes, which were all made from scratch and sold for $3 each. She didn't need the detergent stamps because she made her own soap.
Peace retired from Read's in 1971 at age 70, to have more time for her grandchildren, as well as for her hobbies, which included crocheting, reading, music and listening to the radio.
'She didn't watch TV,' said her daughter Betty Sullivan, 'but she has always liked country western music.'
Peace celebrated her 100th birthday on the same day that the World Trade Center towers fell.
'I really felt so bad about what happened at the World Trade Center that day,' she said.
She had a great birthday, anyway, because two of her favorite country stars paid tribute to her in a special way. Alan Jackson sent her a huge bouquet of flowers, and George Strait sent flowers and a tapestry with his image woven into it. The two singers have sent her flowers for every birthday since then, and Strait sent her an autographed picture when she turned 104. She received a birthday greeting from President Bush as well.
Just two years ago, on the Saturday before her birthday, Peace went to the Music Theater show as usual. Before the music started, though, she did her high school cheer from 1917. She received a standing ovation.
Danny Graham and Susan Hill, two of Peace's grandchildren, take their grandmother to the music shows, along with anywhere from two to nine other residents from the assisted living facility where she resides.
'She never misses a show,' Graham said.
Peace, who uses a walker to get around, was recently sitting in the lobby of the theater. When asked what she was doing there, she replied with a smile, 'Waiting for my grandchildren.'
Just then, Graham appeared and, with her arm hooked in his, the two of them walked down the aisle to the first row of seats in the theater. The walker was left behind.
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