Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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September 11, 2012

MARK MAYNARD: A life full of vim, vigor ... and shoes

ASHLAND — There are lots of interesting people in our little town. Maybe none moreso than one of Ashland’s oldest and most treasured residents.

Say hello to Agatha Weinfurtner.

She is 96 years old — going on 16. “I can’t believe I’m this old,” she said.

Neither can anybody else.

She is a devoted Catholic who never misses Mass, a homemaker (“I try to do one thing a day”), mother of four boys (“Rotten boys. I should have written a book. It would be X-rated after the second chapter”), grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of 16 and a collector of more than 250 miniature collectible shoes.

Really, miniature shoes.

“I’ve been doing that for almost 40 years,” she said. “It gives me an outlet.”

Her friends bring her little glass and plastic shoes of all shapes and sizes. She has big ones, small ones, unusual ones and favorite ones.

“I like this one the most,” she said of a Christmas boot. “I paid $2 for it at Big Lots.”

Friends know how much she loves her little shoes and they often bring them to her or leave them where they know she’ll be.

“I had somebody bring them to me yesterday at church,” she said. “I find a place for them.”

She brings them out about every two years and they are scattered throughout her home, on window sills, tables, almost anywhere you can imagine.

“I’m a window decorator,” she said. “But you should see me at Christmas. I’m a Christmas nut; I have a big tree and everything.”

Agatha still has a sharp mind and a quick wit. She attributes that to being an avid reader, working crossword puzzles daily and watching the television show “Jeopardy!”

“I never miss it,” she said.

Give me Amazing Ashland Women for $500, Alex.

The answer? Who is Agatha Weinfurtner.

She was born in 1916 and graduated from her beloved Holy Family High School in 1934. Agatha was married to Tony Weinfurtner for 62 years. Her husband died 11 years ago.

Agatha had three sisters and a brother, all of whom have died, too.

“I buried my parents and all my siblings,” she said.

She has always been an independent woman but has been a little more dependent on others since she stopped driving.

“I sold my car when I was 92,” she said. “Worst thing I ever did. I sold it myself.”

Even without her wheels, she gets around. One of her boys will take her shopping, and neighbors in Midland Heights keep an eye on her.

“Jim Bradley lives across the street and his wife, Dianna, is my angel,” Agatha said.

They know her habits and keep close watch. But Agatha Weinfurtner does quite well on her own, thank you.

Her four sons — Tony, Butch, Mike and Kevin — take her grocery shopping. They joke with her and she gives it right back to them.

“My kids call me motormouth,” she said. “My oldest son loves to argue. I spit it right back at him.”

Over the years she has brought joy to so many through volunteering and the piano. She played the organ for 20 years at Holy Family.

“My piano has been my salvation,” she said.

The piano in her living room that she still plays despite arthritis was a gift on her 25th wedding anniversary.

“When someone or something upsets me, I sit down and play my piano and it all goes away,” she said.

Dora Henry Manley, her mother, lived to be three months shy of 100.

“I’m going to beat her,” Agatha said.

Her mother had a seventh-grade education but was a wise woman, Agatha said. “I’d like to be half the person my mother was.”

She remembered when her mother was 96 and in the nursing home in Wurtland.

“She loved Tom Selleck in those white shorts,” Agatha said. “We wrote to him and he sent a poster, 5-feet tall, of him in his white shorts. We put it up in her room. She thought she’d died and gone to heaven. He was gorgeous.”

Asked if she had a celebrity crush of her own, Agatha chuckled.

“Me? Richard Gere. And I always liked Paul Newman, too. Cool Hand Luke. My brother looked just like him.”

There is plenty cool about Agatha, too. She worked more than 40 years as a volunteer with the American Red Cross and played the piano in countless nursing homes. Her husband, who owned and operated the Weinfurtner Pontiac dealership by the bridge, didn’t want her to work. So she didn’t.

“When I graduated from piano I gave a recital at the Ventura Hotel,” she said. “My mother made a dress for me and it was so beautiful. I had to memorize 39 pages of double piano.”

She said “Ave Maria” is her favorite song and considers religion to be an important part of her life.

“I’m very proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished,” she said. “I’ve had a wonderful, interesting life.

“If you help somebody, you help yourself.”

That’s a creed by which we could all live.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

 

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