Calhoun County

Blind date leads to 40-year marriage for Elsie Wilson, a Calhoun County centenarian

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series. As part of our regular coverage of all things Battle Creek and Calhoun County, in coming weeks On the Ground will be highlighting the centenarian stories on our website and social media platforms.

Elsie Wilson was born a country girl in 1921 in Isabella County near Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She was the youngest and only girl of three siblings. Her mother was a homemaker while her father worked for other people in town.

Growing up, she enjoyed a relatively carefree life riding her tricycle, playing Old Maid, and riding the neighbor’s draft horses. She liked the water but couldn’t swim so she would take boat rides whenever one was available. She also enjoyed attending horse pulls at the Ionia Fair with her father each summer. Elsie attended the local one-room schoolhouse where she completed her education to the 8th grade. She began working as a babysitter, and after that attended to the disabled son of a local family.

She met her future husband Jack on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. Jack was a transplant from Tennessee who landed in Battle Creek because of his job in food service at the VA Hospital. They had a long-distance relationship for nine months until he married her in 1952 when she was 32 years old. They had a small ceremony near Battle Creek with only three others from the hospital in attendance. 

Elsie Wilson was born in 1921.Although they did not have children, Elsie busied herself around a tidy little home on Champion Street. She eventually began working for the Battle Creek Sanitarium from where she ultimately retired after 16 years working in the housekeeping department. Neither Jack nor Elsie drove, preferring bicycles to get around town. But they did manage to get out and about thanks to a friend who was happy to take them to the store and on the occasional trip back to see her family in Mt. Pleasant or Jack’s family in Tennessee. They were even able to make a trip out to Arizona and Wyoming where they toured Yellowstone National Park. She never flew on an airplane, but she did take the train a few times, which she really enjoyed.

Jack and Elsie also enjoyed going to the Lowell Showboat, a docked wooden steamboat that featured singing and dancing. After retiring, Elsie and Jack moved into the Bedford Manor Apartments when it was brand new. They were married for 40 happy years until Jack’s passing in 1993. One thing she will always remember about Jack was that he used to surprise her with little presents throughout the year. The first ones were two porcelain figurines that he gave her before they were married that she still has in her apartment today.

Elsie continues to live in Bedford Manor as their longest residing tenant of 36 years.

Some of Elsie’s favorite pastimes were crocheting, knitting, playing croquet, and cooking. When asked what her favorite dish was, she replied, if it’s good, I like to eat it! But the one thing she really liked to make was pies. Some of her favorite pies were coconut cream, apple, butter pecan, butterscotch, and her most favorite: custard. She says her greatest accomplishment was the pies she made, and she attributes her from-scratch crusts as the thing that set hers apart. She once imagined opening a little pie shop where she would serve her delicious pies with coffee but decided they were best kept to family and friends.

Nowadays, Elsie enjoys attending the Adventist Church, watching her favorite shows, Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk, the news on TV, and playing cards with her friends. She also enjoys listening to old-style country music because she can’t understand the new stuff today. Elsie also has a love of birds and her favorite, cardinals, can be found throughout her tidy little apartment.