WAHOO – On Sunday, a local woman will celebrate a huge milestone.
Marie Bouc will turn 100 years old. The centenarian will celebrate that day with family and friends during an open house at South Haven Living Center in Wahoo, where she has been living for the past seven years.
There could be a big crowd at the party, as Marie and husband Leonard had 11 children during their many years of marriage. They are Alice Patocka-Fortner, Margaret Fujan, Leonard Bouc, Helen Granquist, Dee Winey, Freddie Bouc, Aggie Gesch, Fran Geisler and Robert Bouc. Two of her children, Rita Mueller and Theresa Bouc, are deceased.
Marie also has 19 grandchildren and at least 26 great-grandchildren (that was the number last year when she celebrated her 99th birthday) and seven great-great-grandchildren at last count.
Marie was born on March 8, 1920 near Colon to William and Anges (Koutny) Meduna. She grew up on a farm with one brother and one sister. She was the first baby to be baptized at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Colon.
She attended a country school south of Colon until eighth grade, then finished high school in Wahoo. She graduated in 1937.
Marie’s brother introduced her to Fred Bouc at a Catholic Youth Organization dance in Cedar Bluffs.
On Sept. 10, 1940, they were married at the same church where Marie was baptized. She wore a beautiful wedding gown that cost $25, a fairly large sum at the time.
The dress was later worn by two of her daughters at their weddings.
The couple lived on a farm south of Weston for seven years. When Fred’s brother, Ernie, came home from the Army, he was given the family farm and Fred and Marie were forced to move.
They found some land between Colon and Cedar Bluffs that had been in Marie’s family. They settled there and raised their family. Their children attended District 60 school until eighth grade and then went on to finish high school in Wahoo, either at Wahoo Public or at Bishop Neumann after the Catholic school was opened.
Faith has always been very important to Marie. It helped her through the tough times, including the loss of her daughter, Theresa, who drowned at age 12. In 2014, Marie lost another daughter, Rita, to cancer.
Every Sunday Marie, Fred and their children would take up the same two pews for mass at St. Joseph’s. In the middle on the north side, remembered Marie’s son, Leonard Bouc.
“We didn’t miss church any Sunday,” he said.
Marie was active in the St. Anne’s Altar Sodality and cooked food and served for many funerals, banquets and fundraisers.
Marie raised chickens and took care of the other farm animals.
“When (the chickens) were little they’d follow me around,” Marie remembered. “A runt pig crawled under the gate and followed me around as I was feeding the chickens.”
The children helped out with chores, just like most farm families of that era. The children took care of sheep, pigs and cows that they showed in 4-H. Marie loved seeing the calves play outside her kitchen window.
“I’d see them jump around,” she said with a smile as the memory came back to her.
The family butchered and dressed a dozen chickens each Saturday to be eaten throughout the week. It took two chickens to feed the family at one sitting, Marie said.
Every Saturday, Marie was busy baking bread, kolaches and pies for her family and to share with others. Her homemade buns were known throughout the area.
“My brother and sister each only had one son, so I made two pies for them,” Marie said.
The pies were topped with whipped cream made with milk fresh from the family’s cow. They also had homemade butter and real cream in their coffee.
Leonard and Margaret said they did not eat store-bought bread until they were fed the fluffy white slices by an aunt and uncle.
Marie raised a large garden and preserved the produce by canning or freezing her harvest. She would have two canners going at a time and didn’t use a pressure cooker.
Leonard and Margaret remember using the crank telephone they had until the early 1960s, and being entertained by the neighbors via the party line.
Despite their outdated telephone, the Bouc family was the second in Saunders County to get a television in the 1950s. But the expense was actually a cost-saving measure, said Leonard.
“Dad said it was too expensive to take us to the movies,” he said.
The TV was such a novelty and fellow church members would come over to watch the flickering black and white images on the 12-inch screen.
“It was interesting to watch,” said Marie.
While she did many of the same chores as a farm wife, Marie was not asked to work in the fields by her husband.
“Dad didn’t believe in women working out in the fields,” said daughter Margaret.
Fred’s beliefs extended to his daughters, who also avoided working in the soybean, corn and wheat fields and learning how to drive a tractor.
Marie also did not drive much until after her husband died in 1991. Her family gave her driving lessons from local instructor Randy Shada as a Mother’s Day present.
Holidays were also a big thing in the Bouc home. After Marie and Fred’s children started having children of their own, the growing brood continued to gather in the family home.
“There were usually about 42 of us there at Christmas time with one bathroom,” said Leonard with a laugh.
Marie reminisces about those holiday gatherings during tours of Saunders County arranged by South Haven staff. She enjoys the drives in the country, as well as many of the other activities at the facility, including daily exercise class and weekly mass.
She credits the amount of exercise and work it took to raise 11 children with keeping her young, as well as some other secrets.
“Cooking healthy and genes,” she added, with another trademark smile.