Irene Hetherington was born 104 years ago, on November 15, 1914. Today she is a resident in Bethany, not too far from the Oklahoma City home she was born in.
Talking to her, it’s hard not to think about the breadth of things she has witnessed and how much the world around her has changed in over a century. Irene, however, doesn’t seem overly impressed with the history she has lived through. Looking back on the Dust Bowl, for instance, she says she remembers the time but never gave much thought to its significance. “You would see the dust on the curtains, and you could smell it and it would get in your food,” she says. “But it wasn’t history when it happened, it was just life.”
Most of Irene’s life has centered around her family, her community and her church. As a young woman, she was one of the very first employees hired at J.C. Penney when the department store came to Oklahoma. She worked in the “tube room” during the day, sending change and envelopes of cash to different departments through the store’s network of pneumatic tubes. In the evening she would help update the store’s ledger.
It was at J.C. Penney that she met her future husband, Andrew Heatherington. They fell in love and got married in her parent’s living room, with the family’s pastor making a house-call to perform the ceremony. Irene and Andrew were married for 63 years, before Andrew passed away. They had one child and today have two grandchildren. Irene’s advice to other couples is simple: be sure to make up after a fight. “You have to work things out,” she says.
Irene was active for many years in Pennsylvania Avenue Christian Church, and would often host dinners with a women’s group in the church.
She moved in June of 2017 after suffering an injury to her knee. The staff has given her the affectionate nick-name “grandma” and says she can light up a room with her smile.
“Irene has a positive attitude and a great outlook on life,” says Administrator Jessica Bieger. “That kind of attitude is contagious. She is a joy to be around.”