Things My Grandmother Knew: Waldo McBurney

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I’m taking a bit of a different approach to today’s post.  This one isn’t so much as THINGS my grandmother knew.  Instead, this one is about PEOPLE my grandmother knew and one man in particular…Waldo McBurney!

Growing up, I spent many a summer week in the town where I was born…Quinter, KS.  Oh, if you are driving down I-70 in western Kansas you may not even notice it.  It’s a small town and by a small town, I mean less than 1000 people and it looks very similar to many other towns that you pass on I-70 as you go through western Kansas.  But for me, as I’ve written before, it was my “Our Town.”

There is something about a small town that lends itself to remembering…remembering PEOPLE.  Over the years, Waldo McBurney made his appearance in my life many times over.  If he were still alive and you were to ask him about me, I doubt he would even know who I was.  But I remember HIM!

I remember him leading the beautiful a capella singing each Sunday at the Reformed Presbyterian Church where I attended whenever I visited my grandparents.  He had his pitch pipe, would get our starting note, and then the church would be filled with farmers, ranchers, merchants, housewives, teachers and the old and young alike singing from the Psalter in four part harmony.

I remember him coming into my grandfather’s store on Main Street and visiting with my grandfather and the laughs I would hear as I pretended to be a shopkeeper helping my grandpa.

I remember hearing him talk about his bees and honey season and I remember my grandma using that amazing honey year after year.

I remember being told that at 65, he had taken up long distance running and that a decade later he began competing in the Senior Olympics, the World Masters and other events, winning 10 gold medals for track and field events.

I remember when he was honored by President Bush as the oldest working citizen of the United States at the age of 104.

As an adult, I remember visiting him at his storefront to buy my own honey.  Yes, he had trouble hearing what I was saying but he knew exactly what to do.  He got me my honey and insisted on helping me carry it to the car.

AND…in his office, I remember seeing copies of his book…”My First 100 Years:  A Look Back From the Finish Line.”

I remember when my mom told me that he had FINALLY decided he needed to move into assisted living around the age of 105 I believe…

and I remember realizing an era in my past had ended…when I heard in July of 2009, that Waldo, at the age of 106, had finally crossed that finished line and was now in heaven.

“Use it or lose it” was his philosophy and he used “it” his entire life and continues to be an inspiration to all who knew him and to all who learn of his amazing story.

Today, on the western plains of Kansas they will hold the 5th Annual Waldo McBurney Race in Quinter and people will continue to be inspired by his life…my mom, a resident of Quinter, will participate in that race in honor of Waldo and of the hope he continues to give so many.


To learn more about Waldo McBurney, a google search of his name will give you many selections to choose from.  However, this one, I think, is my favorite.

CBS News:  America’s Oldest Worker Has A Sweet Life


4 thoughts on “Things My Grandmother Knew: Waldo McBurney

  1. What a beautiful post – he sounds like he was an amazing person.

  2. I just read this blog and think it is wonderful!! It certainly triggers memories for me, too. Thank you for writing this!! What a blessing!!! Sorry I am slow to getting around, as I was even for writing a blog.

  3. Great blog! Your grandfather sounds like a wonderful man, someone I would love to meet when my own race is over! Thank you for sharing about him

    • Thanks for your comment Kim. This gentleman was not my grandfather….but was someone from my grandparent’s town. Maybe I should write an article on my grandfather as well. He was a great influence! Thanks again for stopping by.

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