Laura Schlobohm celebrated her 100th birthday last week with Golden Oaks Village. On her birthday, May 28, Schlobohm was surrounded by her family members, dear friends, fellow residents and staff. Laura was honored by both the Centenarians of Oklahoma and Care Providers of Oklahoma, inducted into the “Centenarians of Oklahoma Club” and the “Oklahoma 100 Club” respectively. At Laura’s request, birthday cards have been enjoyed all month long, and a lifetime of happy memories and stories were shared at the party.
Born May 28, 1919, Laura Lunsford grew up around the Eureka and Emporia, Kansas areas. Laura still holds many happy memories of her years there, appreciating the “homey” atmosphere of small-town living where she made life-long wonderful friends.
While attending Emporia High School and later, College of Emporia, Laura worked part-time for the Emporia Gazette newspaper at the time when famous American journalist William Allen White was at its helm as its publisher. White was well-known and loved for his folksy wisdom and political commentaries as a spokesman for small-town America. Laura had the privilege of meeting him and contributing to his paper. She later became a docent for the William Allen White House, also known as Red Rocks, a Kansas historic site in Emporia, Kansas and the White family home from 1899 until his death in 1944. She was a favorite with the tourists and visitors to the home, as she colorfully shared her personal anecdotes of her experiences with William Allen and his wife Sally White.
Laura’s mother was an important and lasting influence. Laura describes Janie May as a feisty woman, petite in stature, with the demeanor of a “bear cat.” Janie May joined the workforce long before it was popular for women to work, prior to World War II. Laura admired her mother’s independent “can do” spirit, recalling when her mother bought a car before she knew how to drive, hired college boys to teach her how-to, and successfully attained a driver’s license at age 65. It was her mother’s no-nonsense advice to “keep breathing” that Laura attributes to her own long life, noting her advice has “held me in good stead all this time!”
Graduating from the College of Emporia with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, and thereafter achieving a Master’s degree in Speech from Emporia State University, Laura followed her mother’s advice and pursued a career in teaching. Her first year, she taught English at Reading High School and knew she had made the right career choice, sharing “it was so rewarding when I saw the light come on in their eyes … when they got something” that was taught. Transferring to Osage City High School thereafter, she enjoyed 30 years as a teacher of English, speech, drama, and debate. She loved coaching the debate teams, helping students learn the necessary organizational skills for debating, and the excitement of the competitions. She also served as President of the Kansas Speech Association and was selected as “Kansas Speech Teacher of the Year.” After retiring from Osage City High School, Laura drove 50 miles every week to teach parenting to mothers who were incarcerated. When they successfully completed the class, she helped sponsor the mothers and their children on a weekend at Camp Chippewa near Ottawa for three days. During her 20-year tenure at Topeka Correctional Facility, she was awarded “Kansas Volunteer of the Year.”
Laura was noticed by George Charles Schlobohm when she was giving a humorous reading of “The Waltz,” a short story written by literary wit Dorothy Parker, one of her favorite authors. When later introduced at a teachers’ reception in the fall of 1941, George shared with Laura that he had seen and enjoyed her earlier performance. Impressed by his clever notice, Laura and George enjoyed a “love at a first sight” whirlwind romance, for as Laura noted “when you know, you know!” George and Laura married on May 10, 1942. He was her best friend, supporting her in everything she did, and he was “a doll about driving kids to debate meets.” They were happily married for nearly 52 years, until George’s death in 1993. They raised four children, Bill, Sally, Charles, and Alan, in Reading, Kansas, where George raised corn, wheat, and cattle on their family farm. After George died, Laura moved to Emporia where she had better ease of medical care, transportation, shopping and social activities.
In 2011, Laura moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma to be nearer her daughter, Sally Harris. A resident of Golden Oaks Village Assisted Living, Laura quickly made new friends in her new hometown. With daughter, granddaughters and great-grandchildren nearby, Laura spends much time with her devoted family members. She also enjoys playing bridge weekly, knitting baby hats for newborns at Stillwater Medical Center, listening to books on tape, writing, and participating in Golden Oaks activities. She says about her residence, “I like it all! Golden Oaks is friendly, accommodating and comfortable. After my hip surgery, and later my knee surgery, I was very well cared for by the staff here. They checked on me often to make sure that I was doing alright.”
Recalling her long and happy life, Laura has embraced her mother’s words of wisdom as her own, “do the best you can, for as many as you can, for as long as you can.”
Golden Oaks administration wrote, “We celebrate you, Laura Lunsford Schlobohm, and we wish you the happiest of birthdays.”