Ypsi resident celebrates 100th birthday and decades of community service

You'd never know that the petite white-haired lady calling out "O six-four! B 11!" weekly during Wednesday bingo at the Ypsilanti Senior Center is among the center's oldest members. Virginia Basler turned 100 May 27, and senior center staff threw her a party May 20 that was attended by local politicians and more than 100 friends of the senior center.

Ypsilanti Senior Center Director Monica Prince says the party was supposed to be a surprise, but despite her hearing loss, Basler managed to catch wind of the party.

Basler says she got so many presents without a card or any name that she doesn't know how to thank everyone who came to celebrate.

Basler was born in Alpena in 1923 and first arrived in Ypsilanti during World War II, when she came to work at the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant, drilling rivet holes for B-24 Liberator planes for nearly two years. Later, she joined a unit of the Coast Guard Women's Reserve, known as the SPARS.

After the war, she returned to Ypsilanti to work at the same plant, which had been turned into a Kaiser-Frazer car factory. She met her husband Leonard during that post-war period and had three children with him. She also worked as a cook for the Ypsilanti schools and at Eastern Michigan University. 

Though Basler retired in 1990, she has remained active. She worked as an Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels volunteer into her mid-90s but quit a few years ago when she started to slow down a little, she says.

Despite celebrating a century of life, she still volunteers in several capacities including working at the local charity Ypsilanti Thrift Shop and participating in American Rosie the Riveter Association events, including a recent one held in early June in Portland, Ore.

Longevity runs in Basler's family. Her mother died just shy of 108, and her mother's uncle lived to 103.

However, the centenarian says she doesn't have any special secrets that let her live to 100.

"I'm just here until the Lord gets tired of me being here," she says.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Annie Somerville.
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