Ursula Christian Hefner of Palm Harbor, and formerly of Madeira Beach and Seminole, celebrated a milestone birthday on Sept. 11 despite the threat of another hurricane. After all, a woman who worked when married women weren't supposed to work, and even continued working until the age of 93, doesn't get bothered by much. Her grandchildren hosted a 100th birthday party for her at Sam Seltzer's in Clearwater.
Born in Muskegon, Mich., on Sept. 11, 1904, she was one of nine children of Emma and Henry Christian. She grew up on the family farm and lived in Michigan until 1967 when she retired with her husband, John Hefner, to Madeira Beach. He died six months later and Mrs. Hefner went back to work. She was recognized in 1995 as the oldest worker in Pinellas County when she received the Silver Hat Award from Job Service of Florida and its advisory board.
The centenarian attributes her work ethic to helping her reach 100. She said she has always been something of an employment rebel.
After graduating from Western State Teachers College in Kalamazoo, Mich., she taught school for two years. She was forced to quit when she got married in 1925. At the time, married women were not allowed to teach school or, for that matter, to work almost anywhere.
But this new bride was not willing to be just a homemaker, so she chose the path of the little white lie. She pretended to be unmarried to get a clerical job with a pharmaceutical company.
That worked out fine until a co-worker turned her in. Undaunted, Mrs. Hefner went out the next day and got another job.
"I also told them that I was single," she confessed, "but I don't think they cared."
Mrs. Hefner worked as a secretary for a refining company until she became pregnant with her oldest son.
When she felt her two sons were old enough, she went back to work. She was a Dictaphone operator for an insurance company, a job which she considers the best she ever had. When Mrs. Hefner received the Silver Hat award in 1995, she explained her reason for continuing to work: "I need to have a purpose when I got up in the morning."
She said she liked the motivation, the independence of driving herself to work and the benefits of a little extra money to spend on her three grandchildren and great-grandson, all of whom live locally.
Mrs. Hefner said being employed was good for her state of mind and that she didn't like to think about having outlived her husband, both her sons, her siblings and most of her friends.
After her husband died in 1968, the widow, then in her mid 60s, was content doing retiree things such as traveling with friends and going on cruises, for a little while.
Within four years she decided she was bored and spending too much money, so she started searching for a job again.
She found work as a hotel housekeeper for the Wit's End on Madeira Beach and stayed there until she decided that maid work was just a bit too difficult. At 86 she retired once more, until three years later, when she got the itch to work again. This time, at almost 90 years old, she wasn't optimistic anyone would hire her.
She called the AARP Senior Employment Program, and the next day, started a job as a food aide at Neighborly Senior Services (NSS) in Seminole, a job which kept her busy and working to the age of 93.
In 1998, Mrs. Hefner finally decided that her working days were really over and moved to Chateau Palms Manor, an assisted living facility in Palm Harbor. She receives regular visits from the widow of one of her sons, Diane Hefner, and her grandchildren and great-grandson.
Couple celebrate 70 years together
Bessie and Clarence Semon of On Top of the World in Clearwater celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a family dinner attended by their nephew Doug Mallett of Marietta, Ohio, and their caregiver, Dorcas Kathrin Reetz of Pinellas Park.
They were married Sept. 15, 1934, in Marietta.
They came here in 1976 from Marietta where they owned and operated the Marietta Dental Lab. He is an avid golfer and is proud of hitting a hole-in-one.
Information from Times files was used in this report.
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