She was fresh and alert and interested and interesting and sixteen in 1902. And last Saturday (September 18, 1976) she was fresh and alert and interested and interesting and ninety. . . .

One can look at the photo above and guess that Ethel Forbes was just as friendly and warm at 16 as she is today. [Photo is not good in the microfilm.]

She was born Ethel Walden and lived in Des Moines. She graduated from high school there in 1906. Her father was with the railroad and was transferred to Carroll, Iowa, where Ethel met and married Jud Forbes.

Jud was studying to be a mortician. As in the previous century when a man wanted to be an attorney or a doctor, he “read” the law, or he “read” medicine with the man who knew most about the subject; so Jud studied undertaking with his grandfather.

In 1909, soon after the birth of their first child, Jud and Ethel came to Walnut. Jud had bought into a working partnership with Sam Comer, whose furniture store and undertaking parlor were located at the site of the present grocery in Walnut. [Now Robert’s Bakery]

It was in 1912 that Jud opened his own hardware business in the building that now houses the Walnut Public Library. The family lived in the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Sievers. [310 Antique City Drive] Sam Comer had built the home, and it was there that Jud opened his own funeral parlor.

The family grew . . (When asked if her long life had held any unusual or outstanding events, Ethel replied, “Only if being a wife and mother is unusual.”) . . Emma was their first-born, then young Jud and Ethel, Newell and the youngest, Myrtle.

Mrs. Forbes has been active in many areas. She has been a member of the Presbyterian Church all her life, a member of Eastern Star for more than fifty years, attended Ladies Aid all through the years, and is a charter member of the Priscilla Club.

After Jud died in 1936, Ethel took over the business in association with Roland, Peacock and Baxter, of Atlantic. Later on, she worked as an operator for the telephone company, and as a bookkeeper.

Ethel and her daughters Emma and Myrtle, recalled many of the good times the family enjoyed- just a good family life, they said. It was Mother who kept the home running smoothly and the children in line. With Dad so occupied in business, they said, they remember the evening hours with him . . . peering at them from his easy chair to make sure they were doing their homework at the big dining room table.

And Emma remembers the talk her father had with her concerning her education . . . four years of college were out he said. A short business course, perhaps – very short. The “crash” was coming, and times were hard for everyone.

Ethel tells of the average funeral costing approximately $300 in the early days, and like the old-time doctors, the undertaker was paid in strange “currency.” The family recalled the freshly butchered hogs, the chickens, the garden produce that paid for many a service. Particularly one gentleman who came to the house with his wagon loaded with all those things. . home canned foods and all!

Still, the Forbes family lived well and comfortably – usually occupying one or the other of the spacious homes in Walnut. At Ethel’s 90th birthday celebration, her family had several arrangements of pictures and memorabilia on display. They had many an interesting tale concerning each home . . . Emma was married in this house, Myrtle in that one.

They recall the place on the west edge of Walnut where there was a large barn for storing the hearse. . . and the day the hearse caught fire. Emma says she pumped all the water herself, to extinguish that one. However, another time when the firemen came rushing in to put out the blaze in the roof of the home, she calmly directed them to the attic and went back to the kitchen to put the pies in the oven. They were due at the church for the social!

Speaking of hearses. . at a later date, a picture of the Comer-Forbes horse-drawn will appear in The Walnut Bureau. Though they were not the only funeral home, Jud Forbes purchased the first motorized hearse to be used in the town of Walnut.

Ethel had no difficulty remembering the influenza epidemic that took so many lives. Both she and her husband were down with the flu, but Jud’s services were needed and somehow, he made it through. They were grateful that their children did not contract the dread illness.

There were fun times for the Forbes family. . the vacations at their grandfather’s cottage at Lakeview, and at Okoboji; the Ring-Ride Days – Yes, didn’t you know? The forerunner of AmVet Fun Days and Sauerkraut Days! A Ring-Ride? The object was for the rider to spear a ring as he rode by on a horse. Well, it seems that the longer the liquid refreshments flowed, the more difficult the “spearing” . . . and the closer the competition!

In 1975, sadness invaded Ethel’s life again, when her daughter and namesake, Ethel (Mrs. Melvern Reimer) passed away. Ethel was her middle daughter.

In 1966, illness struck Mrs. Forbes, and she was forced to leave her home and retire to Peace Haven. Ten years later, she is not one bit sorry that this decision was made for her. In her sunny quarters, there, she entertains her friends, participates in her many church and social activities; and in her attractive pant suit and red earrings, is just as smart as in the demure, high-collared frock of yesteryear.

Oh, yes. . another event in her life. . Ethel Forbes is the newest member of the 90 Club at Peace Haven.

It’s a pleasure to know you, Ethel Forbes. . and many happy returns of the day!

(The Walnut Bureau, September 23, 1976)