Analytic and Active
“My mother is 91 and remarkable for her age,” reflects Hank Genther. “Her mind is active, and she has lots of enthusiasm for things.” Nonagenarian Clara Genther attributes much of her fervor and keen mental state to being involved with church activities, doing volunteer work, and having wonderful friends. “As long as my legs and mind are working,” she asserts, “I have no complaints.”
In the early 1940’s, when she started in a position at The Christ Hospital Institute for Medical Research, she and her cohorts were driven by youthful idealism. “We were going to rid the world of malaria,” she recalls. Clara worked day and night on research to find the right drugs to treat the dreaded disease that was taking a heavy toll on American troops fighting in the Pacific during World War II.
Although widowed in 1997, Clara has not lived alone, sharing the house with Hank, who teams up with his mother in gardening and mealtime tasks. She is also in frequent contact with her daughters and extended family.
Having had heart bypass surgery seventeen years ago, Clara offers support to heart disease patients and their families by volunteering for Mended Hearts at Good Samaritan Hospital in Clifton.
Since 1945, Clara has belonged to the Clifton United Methodist Church, their longest active member. Her church is “reconciling,” meaning that it is accepting of everyone; it is one of only two throughout Ohio. The church’s liberal direction, including accepting gay individuals, pleases her greatly.
As a member of the Wednesday book study group at church, she discusses literature and theology with her friends there, reading books by Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong, Bishop John S. Spong, and, of late, A Voluptuous God by Robert Thompson. “If I didn’t have my church connections,” she acknowledges, “I’d get very depressed.”
A voracious reader, Clara belongs to a fiction book club with other women. She devours mysteries and subscribes to magazines such as Newsweek, the Smithsonian, the National Geographic, and Reminisce. Her TV and radio time are limited to the quality stations of PBS and NPR.
Having a strongly analytical mind, she is able to use computers. When she needs technical help, she will persist on the phone with the support person until she understands how to do the task. “I’m 87 and I’ve never done this before,” she once explained to an IT person on the other end of the line. “Can you assist me?”
Interested in genealogy and history, she works diligently at organizing the church archives. She uses Family Tree Maker software to delve into her family’s genealogy, and, with Hank’s help, travels to central Ohio to glean family information from cemeteries and historical societies. She has discovered that her great-grandfather, F.A.B. Simkins, in 1860 wrote the lyrics for Abraham Lincoln’s campaign song, Lincoln and Liberty, Too! Clara enthusiastically writes down all the family-related information to pass on to her children and grandchildren.
Along with various scientific papers she has written, Clara has kept challenged by authoring two genealogy books.
Clara’s mobility has been reduced – she can walk but not for too long, and her balance can be off. But she adeptly continues preparing her own taxes, still drives, and loves to attend the symphony and visit the art museum and zoo.
Positive in her outlook, Clara says she looks forward to the future (such as her much-anticipated 70th year college reunion at Ohio Wesleyan University) and insists that if she continues to function well she’ll remain happy and fulfilled.
Clara refuses to sit around and worry about death. “You’ve got to keep your body and mind active,” she exhorts. “Just keep moving!”