Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
The story of Lahoma Grunewald’s birth is fantastic and she tells it, 99 years later, as if she were an observer of the event and it happened only yesterday.
Grunewald’s birthday is today (Aug 2).
She turns 99 and describes herself as “blessed” for having such a long, healthy life. Saturday she and her friends at Providence Place will be celebrating from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the main dining room.
Ask people who know her and they will tell you, she’s into almost every event or activity that takes place at Providence Place.
When you ask Grunewald about her life and how she got such an interesting name, she doesn’t’ talk about how things are now. Instead, she jumps all the way back to August 2, 1914 and tells the story about her birth to Bertha and Albert Williams in a small farm house near Marlow.
While my mom was waiting for us to be born, she knew a friend in Anadarko and it was an Indian girl and her name was Lahoma,” Grunewald said. “She always told my dad that if she had a little girl, she was going to name her Lahoma. My father said ‘What about if it is a little boy?’ and my mother said ‘You have to name the little boy.’”
When her mother went into labor, the local doctor rode out to help with the delivery.
“And a little boy showed up,” she said. “My mother asked my father what he would call the little boy, and my father couldn’t decide right them so they called him “Little Guy” for the time being.”
“My mom just said, ‘Well, next time, it’ll be a girl and I will name her Lahoma,’” she said.
“Next time” came within just a few moments later.
“Well, my mom was resting and then she started to go back into labor,” Grunewald said. “She told my father she was going to have another baby and that he better go back and get the doctor again.”
Albert scooted out the door to go saddle his horse and make a run for the doctor’s house only to find the exhausted man sleeping on Albert and Lahoma’s cellar door. After having been up a long time for the first labor, the man was spent,” Grunewald said.
“And then I was born,” she said. “My father asked my mother, ‘Well, you got your little girl, what will you name her?’ My mother said, ‘I’m going to name her just what I said I would, Lahoma.’”
Grunewald said her father then decided to name her little brother OK,” she said. “For OK-Lahoma.”
For years the two fraternal twins were as close as anyone could imagine.
Recently she lost her brother, whom she spent the first several years of her life holding hands with every where the two toddlers went.
“My brother died five years ago. He wasn’t as lucky as I have been.” Grunewald said.
Lahoma’s name has been an interesting conversation starter that has followed her about through the years.
In fact, just this year, Grunewald made the trip from Woodward to Lahoma, Oklahoma for the town’s now yearly event, aptly named “LahomaPalooza” in honor of women throughout the country named “Lahoma.”
Of the 700 who travelled to the small Oklahoma town, Grunewald was the oldest to participate, even riding in the parade.
Now a days, Grunewald just wakes to see what the next day brings. She enjoys playing SkipBo and Bingo with her friends and loves to offer gifts to anyone who might look like they need one, her daughter, Dixie Stricker, said.
Grunewald has outlived her entire family and one child and so there are rare moments when she asks the question to herself about why she is still here. But just as quickly, she says she reminds herself about how blessed she is.
It is a rare person who lives through some of history’s most devastating moments - the Great Depression, the dust bowl years and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and finally the loss of her daughter Billie Rae Grunewald 8 years ago, who can still sit up brightly and tell you how blessed they are.
It is that quality Stricker remembers most about her mother.
“She is the kind of person who makes the best out of every situation,” Stricker said. “I remember that when I was growing up if she and I were walking together, my friends couldn’t tell us apart. She looked so young then and still does look much younger than she is and I think that is why, she just made the best of everything.”
In all, Grunewald reared three children, Dixie; Billie Rae and son, Lee Ross. That’s not counting the too numerous to mention teens, who Grunewald and her husband of 65 years, Leland, employed in their grocery and restaurant businesses, which they ran together all the years they were together, Stricker said.
“I never worked at the restaurants,” Stricker said. “But pretty much all my friends in high school did work for them.”
The restaurant and grocery business was a 7-day-a-week type business, Stricker said. But that never bothered Grunewald. She had little time for anything else besides raising her children and working with her husband at the family business.
In all, the couple ran several grocery stores and at least two Woodward restaurants - Katy’s in downtown Woodward and finally the Wayfarer, which is the location of what is Ramiro's now.
While they were a busy couple, the husband and wife team still made time for church, attending Methodist services wherever they lived at the time.
So for 65 years, the two, Lahoma and LeLand, were rarely seen separately, Stricker said.
Indeed, ask Grunewald about the automobiles she remembers and the conversation goes right back to Leland.
“Well, my husband had a little Ford when we married,” Grunewald said, smiling. “Then we had a Buick and then we went to an Oldsmobile convertible.”
So adjusting to life without her beloved husband when he died in 2002 has been difficult, Stricker said.
“They were a special couple,” Stricker said.