PHOTO: Madeline Priess, left, and her sister Maxine share special memories. Photos by Karen Jones
Woman celebrates 100th birthday at Kansas City Center
By Karen Jones
Madeline Priess turned 100 years old and celebrated with a cake reception at the Kansas City Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing where she resides at 129th and Wornall. The party was a joyous occasion with numerous family members and care center employees who have loved and cared for her for many years.
Priess was the first child born to Noah and Ida Cline on June 16, 1919 in Buffalo, Mo. She had seven siblings; the two who are still alive, 98-year-old Maxine of Springfield and 81-year-old Janice of Lee’s Summit, joined her at the reception.
As her favorite Elvis music played in the background, Priess was presented with over 100 birthday cards from friends and family who traveled from as far away as Seattle and Minneapolis to be there.
As the oldest child, Priess would often help her father outside while the younger ones helped their mother with cooking and inside chores. She would get up before school and collect eggs, milk cows, and climb trees to shake the limbs so her father could shoot squirrels as they jumped to the ground. He would either sell them or her mother would cook them for dinner. Fried squirrel was a staple, along with fried chicken and rabbit.
Madeline cried when her parents took her to start school. The teacher said, “Oh, just take her home and let her start next year!” The next year, Madeline returned and skipped a couple of grades as she was a fast learner.
One story she told many times was how her dad felled a large tree across a creek swollen with rain so she and her sister could use it as a makeshift bridge to reach their school on the other side. They held hands as they inched along the slippery surface to keep from falling in the water. Another story was about keeping their new shoes in good condition. She and her sisters would walk from their farm to school in old shoes, switching to the new ones only as they neared the schoolhouse. On their way home they switched again, retrieving the old shoes near a tree where they had been hidden.
As Priess grew older, she was eager to make her own way. She left the farm and came to Kansas City to help out a family that moved here–that’s when she met her future husband, Alva O. Priess, a barber. They married in 1941 and soon moved to Midland, Texas, while he served in the Army Air Force. Later they returned to Kansas City and he opened Priess’s Barber Shop at 55th and Troost. He was there for 45 years, retiring at age 80. They had been married nearly 64 years when he passed away in 2005 at age 90.
Alva preferred that his wife didn’t work outside the home, but working hard was in her blood. She painted the house, mowed the lawn, cleaned the gutters and shoveled snow (she didn’t want her husband to do it after working long hours). She always prepared full meals with a dessert each day, sewed clothes for daughters, granddaughters and nieces, and was active in all their lives.
After her husband died, Priess lived in the family home for several years before moving to the Kansas City Center, where she has been happy, well-cared, and loved by the nurses and staff that work and assist in her unit.
If asked what contributes to her longevity, she would most likely say good living, good country cooking (it’s the bacon grease that makes the green beans tasty), hard work, love of family, determination, and probably most of all, a cold Coca-Cola once or twice a day!
1 thought on “Woman turns 100, recalls her tomboy life in the country”
I met Mrs. Priess once in about 1977 at Alva’s barber shop at 5435 (?) Troost Ave. He used to eat his lunch there and, for some reason, she brought it to him that day. Many times Alva would talk about the neighborhood and that ‘everything changes’ and that he thought the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition was a good organization looking out for the little guy. She told me, proudly, that Alva would cut the hair of the priests at Rockhurst College for free. They were just a great-looking couple. I used to tease Alva about his rather large probiscus, saying that I had a larger nose than him. He used to respond “No, you’re just nosier!”==>please give to the Centarian.