GLADSTONE - If seniority has any value, then Vivian Bizeau could easily be called the "Crown Jewel" of the Tuesday quilting group at First Lutheran Church in Gladstone. Vivian, who has been working as a volunteer quilter for the past five years, will be 100 years old on May 15 and hopes to be able to reach that milestone as a participant with the group.
"I started on my birthday in 2006 and when the ladies found out it was my birthday, they had a really good birthday party for me," Vivian said. "Their bishop was here for a meeting and he came in to sing 'Happy Birthday' to me. It was very nice."
But despite her enjoyment of being with the other quilting ladies week after week, Vivian is also aware that her health may bring her quilting days to an end within a relatively short time.
Vivian Bizeau, left, and Eiko Olson use a template laid over fabric to help them add ties to a quilt. At each place there is a hole in the template, the ladies tie. (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
"My eyes are very bad and my hearing isn't that good either," she said.
Born in Nahma, the former Vivian Bizeau was the only girl in a family with seven boys.
"But I was the oldest and got to boss them all around quite a bit," she said with a grin.
Her father worked for the Soo Line Railroad and the family moved to Masonville in 1912 and later moved to Gladstone where they lived on the east side of town. She quit high school in her junior year with only one credit to complete.
After working for a short time at OSF St. Francis Hospital, Vivian moved to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1923, where she worked for Singer Control Company, retiring at the age of 62. She then moved to Florida and returned to Gladstone six years ago to be near her family.
"By then I had macular degeneration and my nephew brought me back here to be near my relatives so they could look after me," she explained. She now makes her home at Fairview Manor.
While attending a Bible study class at Fairview offered by First Lutheran, Joyce Norton, a fellow resident, invited Vivian to take part in the quilting group.
"I'm not a member of the church - I attend Grace Church - but I told her I'd love to. And I've been coming ever since," she said. "I love to work and I love being with these ladies. I can't do much because of my eyes, but I can still tie the yarn. But that's about all I can do any more."
Although Vivian hasn't been attending her church for a while because she has such difficulty hearing the sermons, she does enjoy attending the Bible studies at Fairview, taught by Nora Smith, retired First Lutheran secretary. "She's such a good teacher," Vivian said of Smith.
But despite her failing eyesight and hearing, Vivian considers herself fortunate.
"My health is still good and I really like to work and keep busy," she said. "I take care of myself and my own apartment. When I lived in Florida, I visited the sick and the shut-ins. It was like my very own outreach ministry." Vivian is still spry enough that when the weather is nice, she favors walking from Fairview to the Lutheran Church.
"I just love being here," she said. "There's not much I can do, but I certainly can do something for the Lord. It makes me feel better. I'm not very gifted, but I really enjoy doing this. It's all the Lord's work and I want to be a part of it."