Madge Herndon, originally Madge Bennet, was the 12th of 13 children when she was born on December 7, 1914. An aunt at her birth, she grew up in the company of her nieces and nephews, and at age 104, she’s outlived many of them.
Madge grew up on her family’s farm in Vinita surrounded by her brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, horses, cows, hogs, and chickens whose eggs sold for five cents a dozen. “If you can think of it,” Madge said, “I’ve probably done it. I used to milk cows, feed hogs, and turn eggs over in the incubator every morning under the kerosene lamp.”
Her parents grew corn and wheat on their farm and Madge recalls the cold, snowy winters of Northeast Oklahoma. No stranger to hard, physical labor, Madge built up her strength chopping ice with an axe every morning so the family’s cattle and horses would have water throughout the winter months.
Before school buses made rounds in rural areas, Madge walked five miles to and from school each day for 12 years. Her favorite subject was math, an interest that makes her an unbeatable dominoes player even today. She graduated as the valedictorian, just as her sister did the year before.
In 1936, Madge voted in her first presidential election at 21 years of age. The candidates were Alf Landon, the Republican governor of Kansas, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had just finished the first of four terms in the office of President.
Madge didn’t always have to walk everywhere. In 1918, her father bought a Ford Model T, the first car that was affordable for middle class families in the country. They used it primarily to drive the 12 miles to West Plains, Missouri, to buy supplies. It took her awhile to get used to the motion of the car and she preferred to stay home for most trips.
Madge married Edward Herndon on August 17, 1940, at the age of 25. They were married nearly 61 years before he passed away in 2001. They had two children, Ramona Jeffries and Charles Herndon, and have four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Madge and her family lived in Missouri when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Though shaken by the events rocking the Pacific Theater, life in the continental U.S. had to continue as usual.
“We heard about it in the morning right before we did our chores,” Madge said, “and then we went and milked the cows and fed the hogs.”
Madge moved to Altus in 2016 to be closer to her daughter and son-in‐law. She cared for her parents when they became unwell and has seen her siblings live well into their nineties (one sister lived to be 105). She attributes her long life to eating raw onions and always living by the biblical commandment that comes with a promise, “Honor thy father and mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” found in Exodus 20:12.
Today, Madge is in great spirits and health for her age, but she does need help completing some every-day tasks. Madge and her family are grateful for the care and love that Madge receives in a place that she calls home.
Madge’s story was lovingly transcribed by her daughter Ramona, her son-in-law Charles, and Plantation Village Director of Nursing Jennifer Wolf.