PRYOR, OK —
The heart of the Koelsch family turns 100 the day before Valentine’s Day.
Irene Koelsch was born Feb. 13, 1914.
“God keeps ya here for a reason. I don’t know my reason yet, so I’m still here,” Koelsch said.
Her daughter Joann was quick to chime in, “your purpose is to keep the family in line.”
Koelsch has a lot of family to keep together.
It all started when three brothers married three sisters, Koelsch said, adding that she was one of eight children.
Irene Swanda married Joe Koelsch in 1935.
Together they had four children, Jerry, Donald, Joanne and Bill.
“I love helping with my 10 grandkids, 20 great-grandkids and four great-great-grandkids,” said Koelsch, running through the names to make sure no one was left out.
A large part of the family lives close, filling Joe Koelsch Street in Locust Grove.
“I visited with a family in Missouri once and this lady told me she had her whole family right there close. I thought ‘I want that,’ and I got it,” Koelsch said with a grin. “I enjoy cooking, so I feed my second boy twice a day. He comes over to eat and we have good talks.”
Koelsch has a love for sewing and quilting, though she doesn’t do it much anymore, and has gifted many family members with handmade quilts.
Her big heart is extends beyond her family, though.
She’s loved playing the organ, particularly for St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Pryor, where she has attended for years.
“I’ve been making rosaries for about 30 years. I just sent 200 rosaries to a Catholic hospital in San Antonio. They just send me a letter when they want more,” said Koelsch. “My friend Hilda got me started making them.”
“Mom can’t hardly see, she’s blind in her left eye, so she makes these rosaries by feel now,” said Joann.
Joe and Irene bought a Locust Grove dairy in 1955 and the Locust Grove sale barn in 1962.
Koelsch has also worked at the Locust Grove Flea Market.
Though she doesn’t get to attend many community events now, she recalls a time when her husband led their kids and grandkids through town parades on his Shetland ponies.
Koelsch has more than 100 years’ worth of stories to tell; like the time she and her sister played piano on the KOMA radio station or about the two indian burial grounds on her property.
Koelsch has outlived car wrecks, fires, falls and surgery.
“It’s like she has nine lives,” Joanne said.
“And I don’t even like cats,” Koelsch added, giggling.
Despite having had 99 birthday celebrations before, Koelsch is excited about her birthday this year.
“I don’t really feel too much older,” said Koelsch, who said her goal for the next year is to “keep busy and think of more stories to tell you for my 101st birthday.”