Hinsdale volunteer marks 100 years
Kathyrn Brackett, a volunteer at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, reacts to her 100th birthday celebration Jan. 8. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 18, 2013 1:15AM
HINSDALE — From streetcars to Skype, 100-year-old Kathryn Brackett is familiar with it all.
Brackett fielded questions about a wide variety of topics as she celebrated her birthday at a party with her fellow volunteers at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital Jan. 8.
“It was a big, big surprise,” Brackett said.
Brackett, who turned 100 Dec. 26, has been a hospital volunteer since 1978. She regularly joins a sewing group, which makes dog and cat pillows for children at the hospital.
Members of her family and the hospital staff, including hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael Goebel, stopped by the volunteer office to chat with Brackett and share her birthday cake.
“I’ve enjoyed every bit, the beautiful flowers and all the people,” Brackett said.
This is a time of transition for her, Brackett said. After 74 years of marriage, her husband Harold died in November at 100.
The couple had been living independently in a cottage at King Bruwaert in Burr Ridge, until her husband became too ill and moved into the facility’s health-care center.
“I’m just getting used to living by myself,” Brackett said. The staff at King-Bruwaert House “are trying to get me involved in activities. I think there are a lot of interesting people there.”
Brackett grew up in Omaha, where she sometimes rode the streetcar to high school, and sometimes her father drove her in his car. Her family was always quick to get the latest inventions.
“We had one of the first refrigerators in Omaha. We had the first of everything,” she said.
Brackett went to United Presbyterian College in Tarkio, Mo., but did not graduate because she needed to earn money to help her brother get his degree in engineering.
She met her husband when both were working in a research lab for dairy products. After they married in 1938, the couple moved to Illinois. They lived in the same house in Hinsdale for more than 50 years and raised two boys and a girl there.
Their next-door neighbor worked for Rheem Manufacturing, a heating and cooling company. He, the Bracketts and another neighbor on their block all had air-conditioning installed in their homes before most residents.
“It was the first water-cooled air conditioner,” Brackett said.
Her family got its first black-and-white television set in 1951.
“I can’t remember much fuss about that,” Brackett said.
She has a computer and an email account, which she uses primarily to hear about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and see their photos.