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103-year-old makes each day a story worth telling - just ask her Facebook fans

Iola May reading a story from one of her notebooks.
Renee Wilde
Iola May reading a story from one of her notebooks.

Iola May Creamer got her first iPad when she was 98 — a Mother’s Day gift from her daughter.

Now, at 103-years-old, she’s on her second iPad and has accumulated over 1,100 friends on Facebook, where this spunky centenarian shares reflections on her life growing up and living in Greene County.

Her family calls her "Iolamazing."

At her home in Jamestown, a basket next to Creamer’s recliner holds notebooks filled with her distinctive, left-handed, cursive handwriting. These notebooks contain stories that span her 103 year life.

These is just all stories,” Iola May muses as she flips through the pages. “This is The Best Is Yet To Come, is a short one, and this is the feather bed, this is the one we put on Facebook.”

Iola May began writing down stories 25 years ago after the death of her husband, Jim Creamer. They were married on Christmas in 1935. Iola May was 18 and Jim was 21.

That night, after dark, here comes the 'belling' crowd,” Iola May recalls. “The men have shotguns, the women usually have pots and pans and beat on them. They expect the couple to come out, and the men get cigars, and the women get candy bars.”

This traditional celebratory hazing is called Shivaree — also known as “belling” or “horning” in the Midwest. And sometimes it went beyond just making a noise and demanding gifts.

The women would come in the house, and they would fix the bed where you were going to sleep,” Iola May says. “I know when my sister got married they did that. And they put pins and flour in the bed. They fixed several beds because they wasn’t sure which one.”

Iola May continues: “And my dad, I remember him taking them out and he had to tear the beds up. He took them out and shook them — shook the flour out outside — and the next morning, he said it looked like it snowed out there.”

Iola May and Jim Creamer had six children.

“We had kids in school for 35 years,” Iola May says. “Myrna, our oldest, started in 1945. Lisa, the baby, graduated in 1980.”

Iola May and Jim Creamer in the 40's.
Renee Wilde
Iola May and Jim Creamer in the 40's.

“She packed lunches for 35 years,” her daughter Lisa Robinson says.

It was Robinson, the youngest, who bought Iola May her first iPad. Robinson thought it would be a good way to introduce her 98 year old mom to social media, and maybe pass the time looking at photos on Instagram.

Not long after getting the iPad, Iola May began posting her stories on Facebook. The shorter stories Iola May can post herself, but for the longer ones, Robinson or another family member helps out with the editing.

Robinson says her mother is now on her second iPad and has accumulated 1,100 friends on Facebook.

“The 1950 blizzard, that got a lot of attention on Facebook, because a lot of people remember their own situations,” Robinson says. “In fact she told the story of a lady who had a baby during all of that and the baby, herself, goes to mom’s church. So it was interesting for her to say, 'I was that baby.'”

Iola May recounts the story, where a neighbor “had a tractor with the Caterpillar-type wheels on it, and they had her on this sled, pulling her through from Port William to Jamestown for her to deliver that baby.”

When asked how long that took, Iola May says, “10 or 11 hours. It was some blizzard.”

“There was a man up the street from us in Bowersville that had a heart attack,” she says, “and their son’s lived in Xenia, so they called Dr. Hendrickson. He got from Xenia to Jamestown, and out at the south edge of town Hall J Hill had a tractor place there. And Hall J Hill tried to pull his car behind the tractor, but that didn’t work. So Dr. Hendrickson rode in the scoop of the tractor to Bowersville.”

And the man survived the heart attack,” Robinson adds.

Yes,” her mom says, “and he lived several years after that. And Dr. Hendrickson later told me, 'That’s a ride I’ll never forget,' because he had to ride down there and back. It was a bad time. To me that was the worst in my 103 years that I’ve ever experienced.”

Iola May’s daughters Robinson and Betheen Struewing say their mother’s Facebook posts have become an inspiration to others. They say it’s a full-time job for their mother, who spends up to eight hours a day catching up with family and friends online.

The sisters say that it’s also a way for them to keep tabs on their mother, who still lives on her own — if they log onto Facebook in the morning and see Iola May is also logged on, they know that she is up and in her chair.

People enjoy it and comment,” Robinson says, “and ask for more.”

I’m at the grocery store picking up a few things,” Struewing says, “and I'll overhear a conversation as I’m checking out. And they’re like, well, there’s always Iola Creamer, who, you know — 103 and still going.”

For Iola May’s 100th birthday party the theme was “make each day a story worth telling." Each family member got a T-shirt with the motto printed on the front. A photo of that gathering hangs on the wall of Iola May’s living room.

When asked what the secret is for living past 100, her daughter’s say that their mother’s recipe for warm chocolate pudding might have contributed to Iola May’s long life.

Iola May adds, “All I can say is I’ve just been blessed.”

Renee Wilde was part of the 2013 Community Voices class, allowing her to combine a passion for storytelling and love of public radio. She started out as a volunteer at the radio station, creating the weekly WYSO Community Calendar and co-producing Women’s Voices from the Dayton Correctional Institution - winner of the 2017 PRINDI award for best long-form documentary. She also had the top two highest ranked stories on the WYSO website in one year with Why So Curious features. Renee produced WYSO’s series County Lines which takes listeners down back roads and into small towns throughout southwestern Ohio, and created Agraria’s Grounded Hope podcast exploring the past, present and future of agriculture in Ohio through a regenerative lens. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Harvest Public Media and Indiana Public Radio.