Shurtz celebrated 102th birthday

| July 8, 2019

COSHOCTON – Pauline Shurtz is the oldest resident at Windsorwood Place Assisted Living Facility in Coshocton. Although she celebrated her 102nd birthday on Tuesday, June 25, Shurtz is an active, healthy, beautiful lady who still remembers the days of her youth.

Shurtz was born on June 25, 1917 in a house in West Lafayette. During the Depression, her father, Sam Smith, drove a cab and would take doctors on house calls to women who were in labor. Shurtz said that her father was paid $5 to sit in the cab and wait until the doctor was through with his work and drive him home.

In a time when women did not work outside of the home, Shurtz’s mother, Aura (Cabot) Smith, drove school bus for West Lafayette children. Shurtz’s grandmother lived next door and would watch her and her sister Betty and make sure they were fed breakfast and got to school on time.

“They worked so hard back then and she is part of the greatest generation,” said Nancy Shurtz, Pauline’s daughter. “Mother is the greatest of the greatest generation.”

Pauline graduated from West Lafayette in 1935 and went on to college to major in music at the College of Wooster. After graduation, she played music for 35 years as an organist in church and would also perform for weddings, funerals, and other events. She also taught piano and she has recognized some of her former students who are now living at Windsorwood as well.

Pauline got her musical aspirations from her aunt.

“I had an Aunt Julia who was supposed to have been quite a young artist,” said Pauline. “She played the piano and she played it beautifully. My mother instilled in me that I could be just like Julia. We had an old up-right piano and I always liked to play it.”

In the 1940s, Pauline and her sister Betty were the sweethearts of Coshocton. The two were models for Golden’s clothing. The girls wore lizard shoes with matching purses and well-tailored suits that fit their slim bodies perfectly. They were known around the area as the Smith Sisters.

In 1941, the nation was in shock when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7.

“I remember the whole town like me was suffering from Japan bombing and we couldn’t believe they would do that to us,” said Pauline.

At the time, Pauline was dating Hubert Shurtz, who went to a base in North Carolina after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and eventually was stationed in the Philippines. In April of 1942, Hubert was part of the deadly Japanese Bataan Death March and for 42 months, he was a prisoner of war.

“It was the thought of this woman here [Pauline] that kept him alive,” said Nancy.

Pauline and Betty wanted to join the Navy WAVES during the war, but decided it was not for them.

In March 1946, Hubert and Pauline were married. Hubert stayed in the army and the two travelled around the country. In 1947, Pauline gave birth to her son Stephen in Coshocton and a year later in 1948, Nancy was born in Columbus.

The United States could never comprehend that another war was on the horizon just after the Second World War, but in 1950, the Korean War began. Hubert again served his country and shipped off to Korea. With the many atrocities of war, Hubert was one of many who went missing in action. His body was never recovered.

“They never found his body,” said Nancy. “So all the war department could do is donate so much money as your pension.”

Nancy and Stephen both received the GI Bill and the family received veteran benefits.

After Hubert went missing in action, Pauline never remarried. However, she lived with a local man named Joe Middleton for 45 years. If they would have married, Pauline would have lost her veteran benefits.

Pauline kept herself busy and after the kids would come home from school, she taught piano from 3 to 9 p.m. week nights. On Saturdays, piano lessons began early in the morning, which her children remember they did not appreciate as they would wake up early on Saturdays to the sound of one of Pauline’s students at the piano.

“Music was a lovely thing to get across to other people,” said Pauline. “I never thought of it as work.”

On Sundays, the family would attend church and then Pauline’s mother would make a big family dinner and they would feed the poor in the community with any leftovers.

“You can’t believe how the world has changed and what a mess the world is in now compared to 100 years ago,” said Pauline. “I think about all the things I’ve lived through and it’s not a good world like it used to be.”

In addition to music, Pauline loves animals and likes to watch nature shows on television. She hates the thought of any animal becoming extinct or suffering. Her daughter said Pauline always has a positive attitude and always sees the glass as half full. Pauline attributes her long life to heredity, genetics, and her environment.

“We were happy,” said Nancy. “We had lots of food and helped others. It was great.”

Pauline agreed that she’s had a good life.

“I have a nice daughter and a nice son,” said Pauline. “I think when you reach my age, it’s best to say I’ve had a good life and appreciate my children and grandchildren.”

Her daughter Nancy said that after Hubert’s death, Pauline stepped in and filled the roll of both mother and father.

“The reason you have a good daughter and a good son is because you were such a good mother and a good father,” said Nancy.

Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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