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Zora Sailors celebrates 100 years of graceful living PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 16:42

By Taylor Lutz

The Wauneta Breeze


For a woman who rode her first motorcycle after her 90th birthday, it’s no surprise that Zora Sailors celebrated her 100th with a little style and grace by wearing a shirt that said, “I’m not 100 I’m 20+80 years of experience.” She admirably advises through those years of experience, “Just enjoy living.”

And what a life Zora has delighted in living!

Zora Price was born July 18, 1911, between Palisade and Hayes Center, Neb., to Martin and Bertha Price who were both from the Hamlet area. Just minutes before, Zella, her identical twin sister led the way. “It was so hot and dry that my mother said the only thing we raised that year were the twins,” Zora reflects.

The twins in their youngers years. (Courtesy Photos)


Soon to be Zora Izona Sailors and Zella Izetta Kerchal, these two twins would be nearly inseparable in the years to come. “We had a lot of discussions,” Zora says with a little smirk explaining the times they would disagree. “I was the ruler,” she continues with a laugh.

“We wanted to be dressed alike because we were twins!” Zora says. Both Zora and Zella would dress alike, get married on the same day, teach together, and live five miles apart on different farms.

“I’ve been a country girl all my life,” Zora reflects. She grew up on a farm where she remembers driving horses, milking cows, shelling beans, dressing chickens, churning butter, canning beef, and having a garden where they “trusted the rain.” “We had to be resourceful,” she says. She loved to pick and eat wild choke cherries in the pastures and canyons the most.


Living on the farm

Zora recalls having an “ice house,” a hole in the ground that they would fill with snow and water to make ice that had a roof on ground level. This is where they would get ice in the summer, make ice cream, and keep their milk fresh. “It was before frozen vegetables and freezers,” she says.

“Dad was a thinker, and my mom was a talker,” Zora remembers. “My folks were never afraid of work. They had ambition.” Zora and Zella had two other sisters, Esther Clawson who would eventually live in Misssouri and Deliphene Downing in Michigan. “My father was prompt. He wanted a boy, but would have to wait for a son-in-law!” Zora says. Her parents would live until they were both around 88, a very honorable age for the time.

Twin sisters Zora and Zella pose with their mother, Bertha Price, who is pictured at middle.


Growing up Zora remembers loving to play “Fox and Goose” and make snow balls when it snowed. Other games she recalls playing were “Pump Pump Pullaway” and “Andy Andy Over.” Zora also played basketball but was “more a scholar than an athlete,” she says. She was the eighth grade champion speller at her school.

The country school Zora attended growing up was about a half a mile from her house. “We’d walk, but sometimes in the winter dad would take us in a wagon,” she recollects. Zora attended the country school District 51 in Hayes Center, Neb., when she was young, and went to high school in Palisade, Neb.

Portrait of Zora’s father, Martin Price.



Growing gracefully

Zora would later graduate in 1929, attend college in McCook, Neb., and eventually complete summer school through correspondence with the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

She worked at “Woolworth’s”, a “dime store” that sold clothing, candy, and other essentials. “At night people would sit on the fenders of their cars. We’d walk up and down the streets and try to find a boy,” Zora remembers with a smile.

Zora also remembers making “box suppers” for fundraisers. For this, she would decorate a box, “you would put enough food for two – usually sandwiches and cake – and wait for men to buy and eat it with you,” she says.

These twins were so inseparable, they even got married on the same day!


Zora and her twin sister, Zella, would both find that “boy” and marry them on the same day in the same church. They would also both have two children. “I had a boy and a girl,” Zora says, while Zella had two girls. Zora remains close to her children, Selma Stevens and Garen Sailors. She currently has five grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Zora taught for 35 years in Hayes, Chase and Hitchcock counties. She started teaching in a one room school house where they used coal to heat the room. She taught for seven years in Wauneta as a fourth grade teacher. Zella taught in Wauneta with her as well. During this time, she would stay at either the school she taught at, or an apartment in town and come home once a week to line out the rest of the week for her family. Zella and she would often stay together.

She was involved in extension clubs for socializing and collaborating ideas. “Keep us, oh God, from pettiness,” was the creed at one of these clubs. She was involved in ones such as, “I.O.U.” and the “Jolly Janes.”


A wealth of history

Zora has received many letters of congratulations since turning 100, including one from the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and one from U.S. Representative Adrian Smith. “Such a milestone is a testament that Nebraska represents the very best,” the letter from Adrian Smith stated.

“You have witnessed great milestones in our Nation’s history and your life represents an important part of the American story,” states the letter from Barack Obama, the president of the United States. Zora indeed has witnessed valuable history in her lifetime.

Zora, at center, celebrated her 100th birthday last week surrounded by friends and family. Sheryl Wiitala sits at left, and Zora’s daughter Selma Stevens is at right.


“You have to think of the progress,” Zora states. “One thing calls for another,” a saying she is commonly caught using. “The purchase of foods was one of the biggest changes,” she reflects on her life. “Before we always had to grow and raise our own.”

She recollects using telephones that were run by operators and the people who would try to listen into the conversations were called, “rubbernecks.” “There is less visiting now,” Zora says. “People are less friendly as they used to be.”


The secret to living

“I’ve loved teaching and being around people and children. I love meeting new people and visiting with them,” Zora says. “I like to broaden my knowledge,” she continues. Zora currently has an overflowing drawer of word search books that she does diligently. She also has numerous diaries that she started writing in since the 1970s. She is often found saying, “Let me go to my diary,” when she wants to recall something. She also reads three different local newspapers to keep her mind current.

These are possibly the secrets to a woman who has stayed in such great health. She drove clear across Nebraska when she was around 90 and did her own garden until she was around 94. She also has been to Europe, visited Switzerland to see where her “mother’s people came from,” she says. Zora has been living in the assisted living at El Dorado Manor Residential Care in Trenton, Neb., for merely three years. On her father’s side, her aunt lived until she was over 100 years old, so she is from a family of “long livers,” she declares.

In celebration of her 100th birthday, Zora’s family all gathered for “a busy weekend,” Zora says with a little pride. “I was lucky to have my son and daughter back,” she says. “I’m always looking forward to having my kids home. Family is very important to me,” Zora said. Her birthday party was inspired by pink, her favorite color.

“Always be friendly to everyone and enjoy living,” Zora sums up her advice following her 100th birthday. Touching countless lives herself in the meantime, these are two things that Zora has mastered with grace.