Calhoun County

Calhoun Centenarian: At 100, Ernest still farms and drives his pickup truck with his dog named Tiny

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.

Ernest Waffle never met a job he couldn’t or didn’t want to do.

Ernest was born in a house on Church Street in Tekonsha in 1921. The family didn’t stay there long and shortly after his arrival they moved to his grandfather Aldrich’s property. He went to Chipman School on Moore Road for a year until his father purchased a farm of his own. That was where he and his two brothers spent their childhood.

When Ernest was 20 years old, he enlisted in the military where he served for a year until he was medically discharged and sent back home, where he returned to farming with his father. Three years later, at the age of 23, he married his first wife and they had four children together, eventually purchasing their own 80-acre farm.

Not satisfied with just farming, Ernest began working 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the Kellogg Company at the plant in Battle Creek, while also working as a substitute mail carrier. His wife thought this to be too much, so she left a note on the dining room table, packed up the kids, and left.

Devastated, Ernest spent the next year trying to win her back, but eventually gave up and asked a friend at Kellogg’s if he knew any good women. The friend did in fact have a lady named Billie in mind and asked her if he could pass her number on to Ernest. Ernest called Billie on his lunch break and they arranged a blind date on Good Friday in 1967 only to find all the local restaurants closed, so they headed out in search of a coffee shop and ended up in Three Rivers, talking the whole way there. They had been dating for three years when one day Billie, curious about Ernest’s cabin up at Big Bass Lake, asked to go there. When they got to the cabin Ernest asked Billie to marry him, to which she answered no. Not to be deterred, Ernest told her that when she made up her mind, he’d be there. She made up her mind in 1971.

After their marriage, they built the house that Ernest still lives in today. They also built and operated an ice cream stand, the Dairy King, for 20 years. In addition to that business, they designed and built the Load N’ Lock Mini Storage of Tekonsha, which Billie managed until her passing in 2017 at the age of 96.

In addition to being hard-working, Ernest was also civic-minded and wanted to effect real change in the community, so in 1972 he ran for and won the Township Supervisor seat. He also served as Calhoun County Drain Commissioner for 16 years, winning the seat some years and losing it to a challenger in other years. Some of his other jobs have been a milk hauler, where he hoisted 10-gallon milk cans around the old depot in town, and a structure mover who moved multiple buildings including barns, houses, a train depot, and a doctor’s office. His first moving job consisted of moving a barn with his draft horse Barney and a spool of cable. It was a long, tedious process, but he made sure it was done properly to keep Barney safe.

Today, Ernest still farms and drives his pickup truck with his ever-faithful companion, a dog named Tiny, by his side. He is also truly grateful to his good friend and frequent lunch partner, who lives just down the road from him. Ernest attributes his longevity to always being a hard worker, which is clearly evidenced by the wide variety of jobs he has held throughout his 100 years of life.