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Ann Knickerbocker’s 90 year journey of learning PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 30 June 2011 22:18

By Taylor Lutz

The wauneta breeze


“But you know when you look back on it — it seems simple compared to now,” Ann Knickerbocker reflects upon life following her 90th birthday. “We played all summer, were barefoot, picnicked, ran around — it was quite subdued compared to kids now.”

Anna Mae Vincent was born Sept. 8, 1920, in Sparland, Ill., to Lyman and Elva Vincent. With a spark of strength, Ann embarked upon a 90 year journey of learning.

Ann at age three. (Courtesy Photos)


Embarking from a solid foundation

Ann was the 10th of 13 children “with only two boys”. “My hubby,” as she calls her husband, Arnold John Knickerbocker, was miles away in Ontonogan, Mich., in a family of similar size. Continuing with a chuckle, “Hate to tell you, his mom had 13 babies too!” and including half brothers, came from a family of 19 children. When asked if this family size was crazy, Ann only gives her warm smile with the reply of, “For that time it wasn’t — I had cousins galore!”

Coming from a big family of love, Ann grew up watching “the boys” and developing her stable character. Her feisty spirit shined even in her youth after a kid kicked around the sweeping she had done helping her dad. She “caught him at the bottom of the hill.” With a glow released from her smile she says, “That was the wrong thing to do!”

Ann in her college picture from Moody Bible Institute.


Her mother was busy raising their family while her father always had a job to support them. He was a builder, janitor, helped with farm horses, worked in a clay mine and did a lot of handiwork with wood. “He made that stand!” she proudly points to in her house now. Coming from good genes, her mother lived until she was 79 and her father 97.

“I was different from my hubby. I was in church and in Sunday School — no one even knew what he did!” Ann adds. Known as “A.J.,” Arnold’s father left their family in his youth while his mother worked hard cleaning saloons to support them. “She had a rough life with all those kids” and later became blind from glaucoma.

A.J. took baths year-round in Lake Superior growing up. His life was changed by a ministry preaching the gospel.

“Just a little mother heard the gospel and believed,” Ann continues. This set up the foundation for that “little mother’s” son, A.J., to be encouraged towards many years of ministry where he pastored in Ontonogan, Mich.; Ocqueoc, Mich.; Saint Charles, Minn.; Arvada, Colo.; Sterling, Colo.; Stratton, Neb.; Greeley, Colo.; and finally Wauneta, Neb.


Persevering potholes

Despite the Great Depression, “We never were hungry,” Ann says. “We never threw anything away and always had a garden.” Her mother sewed things for the family and fed people who would walk through and ask for something to eat. “Every once in awhile you’d see gypsies in buggies and horses. People were half afraid of them but they were just like everyone else, just trying to survive.”

While growing up Ann soon involved herself in band, glee club, and nurtured her passion to sing. She was the first chosen on her softball team and found herself enjoying sports at this time as well.

Despite their separation due to A.J. being drafted in the Army, Ann and A.J. Knickerbocker wrote letters and eventually were married for 62 happy years.


“Basketball was the thing that attracted everybody,” at her school growing up. “I loved that — wow,” Ann recalls. She wishes girls then would have been able to play at the competitive level that they do now. Ann mentions the change society has undergone from technology.

“As the years go by there is an increase of knowledge — there’s so many absolutely awesome, awesome things we never dreamed of years ago.” Ann was a telephone operator before college. “You’d say number please! And you’d ring it. Everybody heard your phone ring though and would listen in — snoopy!” Now she tries to figure out her cell phone.


Extending groundwork

Ann attended the Moody Bible Institute where she excelled in music eventually singing on the radio. George Beverly Shay played piano for her. This was impressive since he also played for Billy Graham, a well-known American Christian evangelist at that time. She was also a part of the “Victory Singers” at the Moody Bible Institute. Her great granddaughter, Alecia Joy Colwell, is the fourth generation in her family to attend this college today.

Her roommate, Agnes Knickerbocker at that time, A.J.’s sister, was soon the connection to Ann meeting her “hubby”. After he made a visit to his sister and met Ann, “We wrote letters for a whole year, both agreed we were Christian, both knew the Lord and wanted to serve Him — so that was the contact,” Ann declares.


Ann and A.J. married in Ontonogan, Mich., on April 5, 1945. “We had no time together hardly at all,” Ann explains because A.J. was in the Army and had to be in Fort Meade, Md., on April 11. The day A.J. arrived in Europe, VE Day, Victory in Europe Day, was declared in France. It wasn’t until July though, until they saw each other again. In October, 1945 the two were finally joined again after A.J. was discharged.

“My hubby always said that he was in the army for three years, two months, and 27 days but he wasn’t into guns. He just wanted to be a poor foolish civilian,” Ann remembers.

A.J. had played the trombone in the Air Force Band and their shared love for music remained.

A.J. and Ann were married for 62 honorable years where they had three children, Joy, Mark and Forrest. Her oldest, now Joy Wheeler, lives outside of Wauneta, Neb.

Ann worked in bakeries and was even a school cook while A.J. flourished in his ministry and was a “fixer,” eventually building a church in his hometown of Ontonogan, Mich.


Enlightening insight

“What I wished I would have known when I was a senior in high school is how important it is to know the word of God — to really know it!” Ann says shedding her wisdom. She used to be afraid and lacked confidence, but after nourishing her faith she says, “You have a boldness — a gift He’ll give. I look back on my life — here you are working hard...doing all these things — busy, busy — but so often we forget this.”

On Nov. 15, 2007, Arnold Knickerbocker “died and went to heaven,” Ann recalls. There would be times someone would call and ask for her “hubby” and she’d reply, “No, he isn’t here, he went to heaven.” With a chuckle she continues, “They’d hang up in a hurry!”

Ann with her two boys, Mark and Forrest.


Ann has never become stagnant in her learning. She is constantly reading, following politics, doing Bible studies, and despite their complexity is fascinated by Fibonacci Numbers — numbers of correct proportion that she believes point towards Creationism. “I wish I would have paid more attention to our American history,” she says is one of her regrets.

Ann now lives with Toby, a “busy dog” and beloved poodle. She still loves to cook and says she often uses “baking therapy” every now and then. She still holds a unique and positive outlook. After a 90-year-long journey, Ann has harnessed a persistent desire to keep learning.

“I believe with all my heart that I’m going to be learning all throughout eternity. That I’ll understand the clouds, the stars, the dinosaurs, what God made and how He made it and why — doesn’t that sound wonderful!” Ann says. “A lot of people think you just sit on a cloud playing a harp but I think it’ll take all eternity to understand what God has made and all His awesomeness.”

Ann Knickerbocker following her 90th birthday.