WAHOO – When her birthday arrived on May 8, Emily Bouc of Wahoo had an added reason for celebrating.
At 109 years old, Emily is the oldest living Nebraskan. It was a title that was conferred on her following the passing of 112-year old Mable Steiner Ragan of Albion on April 30.
According to her nephew, George Bouc of Ceresco, who is 80 years old himself, Emily was one of seven children in her family.
“There were six girls and one boy,” he said.
Emily grew up on a farm northwest of Ceresco. She spent a lot of her youth helping both her father and her mother.
“She’d help her dad with the farm work and then turn around and help her mother in the kitchen,” said George.
Afer her mother died, Emily took over the cleaning and housekeeping chores, making the farmhouse a home for her father and younger siblings.
Sister Lillian Zimola of Wahoo recalls how well Emily kept the house.
“Everything was clean and in place,” she said. “She really ruled the roost.”
Lillian and her sister have always been close.
“She was quite a bit older than me, so she was almost like another mom for me,” said the 97-year-old. “Emily was always on my side, and when I had problems, she had a way of smoothing things over for me.”
Lillian can recall a particular lesson from her days in her rural schoolhouse classroom.
“We were learning a new word, and the word was ‘kind,’” recalled Lillian. “When the teacher told us what it meant, I said right away, ‘that’s Emily.’”
Lillian said her sister had what was probably a typical childhood for the early 1900s.
“Back when Emily was young, they still drove the horse and carriage everywhere,” she said.
The cooking and housekeeping skills learned in her youth stayed with Emily throughout her life. She never married, but spent a lot of time with her various family members.
“She was always a really good cook,” said George. “I can remember her kolaches and her rolls especially.”
For Lillian, it’s the afternoon coffee visits complete with strawberry shortcake that she recalls most vividly.
“Emily loves strawberries, and she’d always be pulling something out of the fridge or freezer when she had me over for coffee,” said Lillian.
Bouc never graduated high school.
“She had an eighth grade education,” noted George. “That was pretty normal back then.”
That didn’t stop Emily from having an active work life. For a time, she worked for Wahoo Attorney Bob Sullivan.
“She watched his kids, as I understand it,” said Lillian.
Emily also traveled a lot.
“She went to Europe, and she went to Mexico, which she loved. She likes visiting the old churches and missions,” said Lillian.
Emily also spent a lot of time at a cabin the family owned in Colorado.
“She always went there during the summer, and she always took her nieces with her,” said Lillian.
Emily also spent a lot of time volunteering.
“Whatever the church needed, she was always a good little worker for them,” said Lillian.
Of particular importance to Emily was the rosary club that she used to be a member of.
“There were about 20 ladies in the club, and they would make the rosaries and send them all over the world,” recalled Lillian.
George said his aunt was always very well put-together when she went out.
“To get ready for church on Sunday, every Saturday she’d get her hair done,” he said. “She always stood out in nice clothes.”
Lillian also remembered how much her sister loved to dress up.
“She always loved clothes and she always wore nice clothes,” she said. “She loved to go shopping.”
While not everyone in the family lives to be as old as Emily, George said they come from a fairly long-lived family. She had an aunt who lived to be 104 and a cousin who was 102.
Emily has been at South Haven Living in Wahoo for the past five years, said George. She needs a lot of assistance but is living comfortably.
Birthday greetings may be sent to South Haven Living, 1400 Mark Drive, Wahoo, NE, 68066.
The second oldest living Nebraska is now Will M. Clark. He was born Aug. 17, 1904.