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A life well lived

Mae Rogers of Negaunee is turning 100

April 28, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE - Turning 100 is a major milestone, obviously.

But Mae Rogers, who hits the century mark on May 20, hasn't let age slow her down one bit. With a laugh that emanates from her tippytoes, Mae is still engaged in the world and sharper than any tack.

It's quite a life she's had ... so far.

Article Photos

Mae Rogers of Negaunee is seen in a recent photo. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

Born in Crystal Falls, Mae is one of Adolph and Ida Miller's four children.

"My dad was a Kraut and my mom was a Cousin Jenny," she said, eyes sparkling. "That's what made me me!"

Her three siblings were Jimmy Miller, Raymond Miller and Jane Miller Hoppens. All are deceased.

"Jimmy was the oldest and ran a newsstand on Iron Street in Negaunee for years," Mae said. "Raymond was in accounts at the mine. And Jane mostly lived in Marinette, Wis.

"She moved there when the glove factory in Negaunee closed. She worked in the factory in Marinette from then on."

Ida Miller moved her children to Negaunee in 1922 after her husband died at the age of 38.

"She was a widow woman with four kids. My mom's (childhood) home was at 110 E. Case St. in Negaunee, so that's where we came after my dad died," Mae said.

Her father died at a young age, Mae believes, because of the stress he experienced as a young man.

"My paternal grandfather was killed in a hunting camp accident when my Dad was 13. My Dad had to go to work in the mines at 13 to support his family," she said. "Can you imagine?"

Her maternal grandfather, Joe Williams, had emigrated from England and owned property in Negaunee, including what was The Arnett Store, later Mautino Drugs, on Iron Street.

"We lived at 110 E. Case St., up from Boosta Stanaway's house," she said, smiling. "Everybody knows who Boosta was. Matt Vanni was our neighbor, too. And we lived across the street from the McCaullife family. They were teachers."

Mae was 11 when her mother moved the family back to Negaunee in 1922. Did she like her new community?

"I should say so," she said. "I met my best friend, Dorothy Pascoe. She lived just around the corner. We were two peas in a pod. We dressed alike, we thought alike. We did everything together.

"We would grab a stick, just in case we had to chase off bears, and go exploring around Cedar Lake during our vacations from school," she said. "One time we ended up all the way in National Mine and had to walk back.

"We were so much alike, we could have been twins."

As a teen, Mae started dating.

"Girls in Negaunee went to Ishpeming to find boyfriends," she said with a chuckle. "I had one from Cleveland Location. He was part of the leather-jacket group. They were tough."

His name was Waino Nyman.

"He was tall, dark and handsome," Mae said. "He was my skating partner at the ice rink. I was there constantly, from the time they opened until the time they closed. I think he enjoyed skating with me because he could fling me."

Mae enjoyed her days at Negaunee High School.

"My favorite subject? Gym," she said with a peal of laughter. "And English. I had the most wonderful senior English teacher. His name was Fred Wolcott. He was the English teacher everyone would want to have. He was a poet."

One day in class, Wolcott told the class he and his wife had lost an infant and read them a poem he had written. That inspired Mae to become a poet herself, an interest she pursues to this day.

After graduating as part of the Negaunee High School class of 1929, Mae took a job as a nanny for a dentist's family. She started at St. Luke's Hospital's nursing training, but didn't finish.

"I felt sorry for my mom," she said. "She was putting my oldest brother through St. Lawrence College in Appleton and my younger brother ended up at Ferris State. So my sister and I got jobs instead of going to college."

Mae became a licensed practical nurse and was hired at the Twin City Hospital in Negaunee. It was that job which led to her first marriage.

More on that next week.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.



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