A local woman who has spent her entire life in the Oklahoma Panhandle, with that only being ten years shy of a century, is celebrating her 90th Birthday this Saturday, Sept. 1 at the Nazarene Church Parlor.
Iola Behneâs story began when her parents, John and Alice Preston Akers met in church during the âhorse and buggy daysâ in the hills of West Virginia, and eventually moved out West after the birth of their first born son.
After eventually ending up in Hooker, eight sons and three daughters followed behind the first born.
Iola was named after the town of Iola, Kan. and was a sweet surprise for her parents who had seven sons prior to her birth.
Iola was named Guymon Pioneer Days Queen in 2003, and was able to share with the community many of her stories from the past.
âPeople in town used to joke that our house was big because it had to cover 14 Akers,â Iola said.
Iola enjoyed playing with her sisters and recalled having to share just one dress between the three of them.
âOne of us wore that dress every day. I guess that is why I like pretty clothes now,â she said.
Iola has experienced many changes throughout the years, including indoor toilets, her father buying his first car, television, girls being allowed to wear slacks, seeing a man walk on the moon, and computers.
Iola met her husband, Louis Behne, on a blind date, and even though it was not love at first sight for Iola, the two were very happily married on Oct. 31, 1942.
After only being married three short months, Louis enlisted in the Navy during World War II. Iola had to experience working and giving birth to her first child, Lou, while Louis was oversees.
Iola gave birth to three more children, Jerry and Kathie, and Ted within the following years, and later, a young relative named Terry joined the family when he was 12 years old.
Louis passed away in a car accident in 1989, and Iola still misses him dearly.
âIt is such a different life when you lose your husband,â said Iola. âYou just live in a different world. I am lucky that I have my kids here.â
Iola was not only a great mother to her children and wife to her husband, but she has also opened up her home to many others.
âSheâs always been the hospitality person,â said Iolaâs daughter, Lou.
This includes exchange students from Yugoslavia, Germany, Brazil, and the Philippines, as well as OPSU students, doctors and teachers that are here on temporary duty, and various singing and traveling groups that need an overnight place to stay.
Iola credits Main Street Guymonâs Melyn Johnson for getting her into housing foreign exchange students and has many positive experiences to share with everyone, including a story about the girl from the Philippines who stayed with her for two years, and calls her Mom.
âShe lived in the basement and every morning she would come out of the basement and say âGOOD MORNING!â She just made my day,â said Iola.
Iola is infamous with many younger generations for the basement in the home that she still lives in, which was built by her husband. It has included over the years a coke machine, ice machine, pool table, other games, and a wall made of a puzzles.
âShe wouldnât let anyone leave the basement until they at least found one piece,â said Lou.
Although Iola has retired her car-driving days, and it hasnât been an easy adjustment to make, she still gets out and about by volunteering at the hospital and reads the newspaper every day. She also enjoys reading books and going to church.
She said sheâs nervous about seeing so many people at her birthday gathering, but knows it will be great to see everyone. Guests include family and friends of all ages, including her children and almost all of her 16 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Iola has been involved in Pioneer Days parade for as long as she can remember, and would even bake bread on a float as it travelled down the street during the parade. She was also very involved in the fair, and is quite possibly the Guymon Daily Heraldâs longest subscriber.
Iola says she has always enjoyed reading the paper and has been reading it forever, and even admires how her paper boy throws her paper just perfectly by the front of her house.
Iola greets everyone with a smile and positive greeting each time she sees them, and will always be known in the community as a woman with a warm heart, and always willing to help others.
One of Iolaâs grandchildren quoted Iola in a story they wrote with her saying, âI love God and I love helping people. I thank God for the past, present, and future. My desire is to live as long as I can, stay healthy, and useful.â
Iola has done all of those things and so much more. She doesnât know what the future holds, but she knows who holds her future and looks at each day with a positive attitude and a great big smile.
The family of Mrs. Iola Behne invite everyone to the reception in her honor for her 90th Birthday. It is being celebrated on Sept. 1 from 2-4 p.m. at the Nazarene Church Parlor at 24th and Sunset. As a pioneer to the Oklahoma Panhandle, she greatly looks forward to seeing the people of her community.