A century and counting: Cheney’s oldest resident turns 100

Cheney’s oldest citizen turned 100 years old on Sunday, Aug. 22. Dorothy Guetschow was born and reared in Cheney and plans to spend the rest of her life in her hometown.

By Michelle Leidy-Franklin

CHENEY – As Cheney’s oldest resident, Dorothy Guetschow might be able to convince others that hard work is the secret to longevity.
Guetschow turned 100 on Sunday, Aug. 22, and has a sideboard full of cards and flowers from friends and family in the community wishing her a happy birthday.
Guetschow lives independently in her own home. She doesn’t care to watch TV, but she reads, does crosswords, and crochets. She also cooks and cleans for herself. She spends most of her time working to crochet afghans for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. RSVP donates her blankets to those in need. Guetschow takes her volunteer time very seriously.
“She volunteers more hours than most people work in a week,” said her daughter, Diane Paneiko.
Guetschow began life on her family farm where she learned the value of hard work. Her family home did not have electricity until she was at least in her late 20s and indoor plumbing came years later. She was accustomed to pumping water for the family to use, breaking ice on cold winter days to water cows, and she learned to milk cows by hand. She learned to cook on a wood stove. When she was young, it was her job to fill the kerosene lanterns so that she and her three brothers could see to finish their homework.
During her sophomore year in high school, the effects of the Great Depression had taken its toll. Guetschow quit school to go to work and help on the family farm. She started working as a house hand helping local families with housework, babysitting, milking cows and other farmhouse duties.
“I worked all day for 50 cents a day,” said Guetschow.
Over the years she also worked for the drug store and the telephone office. Guetschow has spent her entire life living and working in Cheney.
Guetschow’s mother’s grandparents were some of the founding families of Cheney. Her father’s parents were German immigrants. They came to Chicago where they heard about available land in Kansas. They came to Kansas where they were able to claim land, establishing the family farm where Guetschow would eventually grow up.
“My parents would often speak to each other in German thinking we couldn’t understand them, but we had picked up enough to know what they were saying,” said Guetschow, speaking fondly of her younger days.
Guetschow was in her early 30s when a family friend came calling. She was outside washing the family car when Herb Guetschow pulled into her drive to ask her on a date. She initially ignored his presence assuming he was there to see her brother Wayne, whom he regularly hung out with. Instead, Herb asked her to come out to celebrate his birthday with him.
Guetschow married Herb in 1954. Together they had two children, Diane and Don. She reared her children in Cheney as she had been. She has no plans to leave, and is proud to be living independently in her own home. 
A celebration for Guetschow will be held Sunday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friends and family are welcome to stop by and wish her a happy birthday.