Four generations of family came to Pratt on Saturday to celebrate a very special lady's 105th birthday.
Parkwood Village resident Velma Rose Simmons celebrated her 105th birthday Saturday with four generations of family members, numbering about 60, joining her for lunch and lots of photo ops at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, co-hosted by youngest daughter Nancy Neelly of Pratt.
There were balloons, cake and the womenfolk sported a variety of hats to set a festive mood for the celebration which included a smorgasbord luncheon.
Born on their family farm southwest of Cunningham, Velma attended country school with siblings – four brothers and four sisters – completing eighth grade.
Her parents, William Nelson Steven Rose and Lillian Bertha Kennedy, raised her and her brothers and sisters with equal measures of love and hard work on the farm.
“Growing up, I dressed a lot of chickens and worked in the field,” Velma said. She also churned butter and helped feed the chickens, cows and pigs.
On May 20, 1934, twenty-year-old Velma married Vernon Leroy Thomas in the parsonage of the First United Methodist Church in Sawyer, cementing a lifetime of Sunday worship and steadfast faith.
“Dad gave us a cow, a pig and a pig as our wedding gift,” Velma said.
In 1950, Vernon and Velma Thomas purchased their first home from Louis Barker, a big two-story home with 280 acres, at a cost of $72.00 per acre, totaling $20,250.
Velma has since sold the house, a Sears and Robuck home, still standing and visible to travelers heading east on Highway 54 about seven miles from the Pratt city limits.
“We spent many happy years at the farm,” Velma said.
While raising their family, the couple sold cream and eggs in order to buy their groceries in Pratt. They were wheat farmers and raised cattle. Vernon also did carpentry work when he was not busy farming.
Velma said there was time for fun as well as work.
“We were square dancers and loved it,” Velma said.
Velma also played on a women’s softball league, covering first base.
Velma took her first outside job as a sales clerk in the hosiery department at Jetts department store on the southeast corner of Third and Main in Pratt, where Sears is now located.
“It was a big department store at the time,” Velma said. “All the ladies wore hose then, but you don’t see many women wearing them any more.”
After retiring from farming and moving to Pratt, Thomas was diagnosed with prostate cancer and died September 11, 1982.
“He went home to The Lord,” Velma said.
Life took a new turn for the widow and in 1986, she married Clyde Simmons, retired from running a grocery store that was located on North Main, close to where Adams Electric now stands.
Both in their late 60s, the couple decided they wanted to start their life together in a new home, Neelly said, and they proceeded to build a home on Cambridge Drive, where their wedding ceremony was held. When Clyde died nine years later, Velma continued to live in the home before moving to Parkwood Village.
Velma and Vernon had three children – Marilyn, Marvin and Nancy – all in attendance for her centennial-plus birthday celebrations Saturday. Velma and other Rose family members’ lives are chronicled by family member Carrie Vahsholtz in a self-published volume, “Velma Rose Family History,” where, as a new bride, Velma is pictured in swimsuit and high heels riding the pig that was their wedding present.
Velma credits her longevity to a lifetime of healthy living.
“I worked hard, never drank and I didn’t smoke,” Velma said. “I had two good husbands.” I couldn’t have done any better.”
“She’s kinda ornery. That’s probably why she’s lived so long,” Neelly teased.