Agnes Hoffman (left) visits with Alice Bucher (right) at the Van Crest nursing home in Ada. They hold a copy of their graduating class photos from 1934.
Agnes Hoffman (left) visits with Alice Bucher (right) at the Van Crest nursing home in Ada. They hold a copy of their graduating class photos from 1934. (photo submitted)

KALIDA/ADA — This past Thursday, Oct. 4, Agnes Hoffman left her residence at the Kalida Meadows and spent a brief time visiting with her friend Alice (Thompson) Bucher at Van Crest in Ada. The two have been friends since childhood. All of which is rather unremarkable, except for one fact.

Both Mrs. Hoffman and Mrs. Bucher are 103 years old.

Theirs is a friendship that has been shared for nearly a century (they did not meet until high school). They were born just before before World War I began. Mrs. Hoffman remembers her mother going to vote, but does not exactly recall the first time she was able to do so, as her parents always went together.

The two friends came of age during prohibition, graduating high school shortly after its repeal. They both graduated from Columbus Grove in 1934, a time many economists consider to be the height of the Great Depression. Their classmates include some names that many will still recognize, such as Paul Unverferth, George Mayberry, and Earl Belch (“He was a wild one,” she says of Mr. Belch).

But, the meet-up was about none of those things. It was just two friends visiting.

“It was exciting to see her again,” Mrs. Hoffman says of visiting Mrs. Bucher. “I hadn’t seen her for over two years. We had a class reunion several times after graduating high school. And, she and I always attended. A lot of them didn’t, but she and I did. There were about a dozen of us that always did.”

Mrs. Hoffman had always made a point of calling Mrs. Bucher on her birthday. When attempting to do so recently, Mrs. Hoffman found that the phone number she had did not work. After some internet sleuthing by her nephew, Elton Schroeder, a connection was made, and a visit arranged.

Long before all of that, though, the friendship very nearly did not happen. Mrs. Hoffman attended school at St. Anthony’s in Columbus Grove through eighth grade. Following the end of schooling there, her father and mother assumed she would not be continuing to high school.

“I just plain liked going to school,” she says. “I liked arithmetic very well…The funny part is, I was the oldest of four, and not many students went to high school. So, therefore, my dad and mom took for granted that I wasn’t going to go.”

“Because our neighbors weren’t going to go,” she continues. “The Rickers had one or two of them that weren’t going to go. They had walked to [St. Anthony’s] school with me, and they didn’t go on [to high school].”

But, Mrs. Hoffman meant it when she said that she enjoyed school, and she did not relent when first told, ‘No.’

“My dad finally said, he never used the word ‘damn’ in his life, but he did that day. ‘If you want to go to school so damn bad, get going,’ he said. Then, I had to change clothes, and I had to walk to school. Because we lived in Allen Co., and the bus wouldn’t pick me up.”

Nearly a century later, the memory of her parents relenting and allowing Mrs. Hoffman to attend school returns strong and clear. In her voice, you can still hear the hard edge of a young person’s rare victory over her parent’s intentions. A victory she still savors.

During their reunion at Van Crest, Mrs. Hoffman and Mrs. Bucher visited for roughly two hours. A time they both enjoyed.

“When I called and told her that I was going to visit, she just squealed and laughed like crazy,” Mrs. Hoffman said.