When she was born, the Titanic had not yet sailed into history. William Howard Taft was president. She never married or had children, but family remains a priority. A lifelong Kansan, she is proud of her heritage and her education.
Now sitting in her wheelchair, she wears a teal jacket that matches her eyes, black slacks and lipstick. She is fresh from the salon – her hair is short and white. She still likes her coffee steaming hot and if asked, she will smile and tell you that sitting outside in the sunshine is one of her favorite things to do.
And on Saturday, Emporia State alumna Eula May Nunemacher will celebrate her 100th birthday.
“She’s the first person in our family ever to reach 100,” said Ken Van Blaricum, Nunemacher’s nephew who lives in Pratt. “She comes from good, sturdy, pioneer stalk, so it’s not entirely surprising that she would live this long.”
Nunemacher, who graduated from ESU, formerly the Kansas State Teacher’s College, with an English degree in 1933, said turning 100 just feels “natural” and that the secret to her longevity is simply a lifetime of good health. She advises college students to “stay active.”
After graduating from ESU, Nunemacher spent several years as an English teacher in areas around Kansas, including Syracuse and Coldwater, before settling as a librarian, first in Dodge City then in Wichita. She currently resides at the Sunflower Lane wing of Larksfield Place, a retirement community in Wichita.
But Nunemacher said there are some disadvantages to her age.
“When you get to be 100, you’re sort of limited in what you can do,” Nunemacher said.
As a girl, she spent a lot of time outside roller skating, and today she still enjoys being outdoors. Nunemacher also partakes in a weekly Bible study, and embroidery remains a hobby.
Nunemacher attended college right out of high school, at the beginning of the Great Depression. She found an apartment that was close enough to campus that she could walk to class. She described the campus as “pretty” and “well-kept.” She even worked at the library on campus, and for fun she played tennis.
In 2000 she published a short memoir called “I Remember When,” in which she detailed some of her fondest memories of her long life. One story recounts her first impression of her roommate at ESU.
She wrote, “Come September, I went to Emporia ready to move into my room. The lady of the house was glad to see me, and said, ‘Oh, good, your roommate is here, too.’ We were introduced, ‘Eula May Nunemacher, this is your roommate, Eula Mae Peters.’ What a surprise, I had not ever known a person with any part of my name.”
The next summer, Nunemacher and her roommate encountered another Eula Maye in Oklahoma at an allergy clinic.
Travel was also a large part of Nunemacher’s life. The summer after she graduated from ESU, she and a friend drove to Portland, Oregon, and from there they drove to Alaska. Nunemacher said she also took several trips to Europe, including a trip to Berlin, Germany.
Elena Gill, activities assistant at Sunflower Lane, said Nunemacher’s age is uncommon, but the other resident’s at the retirement community are excited to help her celebrate her 100th birthday.
“She’s a kind lady,” Gill said.
Nunemacher’s personality earned her many friendships over the years, Van Blaricum said.
“She never climbed Mount Everest or anything like that, (but) she just made a lot of friends and was easy and fun to talk to,” Van Blaricum said. “Even to this day there will be an elderly man or woman calling to look her up because they remember her and want to talk to her.”
Although Nunemacher says she is “not particularly” looking forward to the next 100 years, she still smiles and says she has lived a full and satisfying life.
“I lived in a happy home and had fine parents.”
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, ESU alumna Eula Mae Nunemacher will celebrate her 100th birthday in the auditorium at Larksfield Place, 2828 N. Governeour St., Wichita. Her family and friends are invited to attend.
One day, a girl asked me to help her find material on “Youth in Asia.” I was puzzled and
asked what they were studying. “Well, it has something to do with putting people to death—I
don’t know what it has to do with Asia.” A little more questioning and I found out that we were looking for “euthanasia.”
– From “I Remember When” by Eula Mae Nunemacher.