Eleanor Roach is used to waking up every day at 5 a.m.
Supporting herself with her cane Roach, 91, walked from her bedroom through her small kitchen to her living room in her Winona Watkins Manor apartment, looking expectantly for the daily newspaper that is slid underneath her door each morning.
“Everything there is to learn is in the newspaper; a lot of knowledge of different things,” Roach said. “Things can change quick if something happens.”
On March 25, Roach started her day with the same routine, watching TV until breakfast at 8 a.m.
After 70 years, transportation has changed for Roach. Instead of walking three miles—like she did as a young girl traveling to school and church—or taking the horse and buggy, Roach now climbs into her state-of-the-art “Go-Go” scooter parked on a small rug in her living room next to her TV.
“When we got a car, we thought we were millionaires,” Roach said with a grin. “Sometimes it wouldn’t go. You’d have to crank and crank.”
With ease, Roach maneuvered her scooter out of her small apartment, zipping through the hall to the elevator and toward the dining room for breakfast.
Eleanor Elsie Brommerich, born May 11, 1919, grew up in the country outside Winona on her family’s farm with her four brothers and three sisters, working in the fields, driving the tractor and milking cows.
Roach is the now the only living member of her 10-person family, including her twin brother, Elmer, who passed away about a year ago.
With nearly 92 years behind her, Roach learned at a young age that life is short. As vivid as if it were yesterday, she remembers seeing the little white casket of her three-month-old brother when she was only eight.
“That just stayed with me,” Roach said. “Just old enough; we understood what was what.”
After breakfast, Roach returned to her room, parked her scooter back on the rug and watch her morning game shows until lunchtime.
“I keep to myself up here, no need to get into anyone’s business,” Roach said as she sat down in her plush recliner and put her feet up. “That’s the way I like it; it’s more relaxing.”
Simple pleasures dot Roach’s everyday schedule as well as her memories. In their six-seated toboggan, Roach and her siblings would ride down a steep hill to the bottom, to be greeted by their horse that pulled them back up the hill for another run.
“When we got started, we really sailed,” Roach said giggling, laugh lines accentuating her face. “We had hard times and we had good times.”
Family photos displayed five generations, and knickknacks adorned the shelves and walls of her apartment. On the small wall behind her armchair was a single photo of her and husband, John, taken several years back.
The avid dancer, Roach met her husband at a dance at the German Society Hall in downtown Winona one summer evening.
“I’d rather dance than eat,” Roach said with a mischievous grin. “I never missed a night.”
Three months later on October 23, 1937, John and Eleanor, then 18, were married.
“They said, ‘It won’t last;’ hadn’t been going together that long,” Roach said.
Mr. and Mrs. Roach were happily married for 66 years before John died in 2003.
“I had a nice husband,” Roach said. “He was a family man, didn’t smoke or drink. He would do anything to please me. Never argued with me, and if he did have a few words about something he would apologize to me. He always kept saying life is too short.”
After lunch, Roach spent the majority of her afternoon watching more of her favorite game shows, and made sure not to miss the news at noon. As she watched TV intently through the lens of her glasses, the lines on her face reveal the experiences of her life: love, laughter and loss.
“They get greedy,” Roach said while watching “Deal or No Deal.” “It’s nice to have money, but I’ve been so long without it, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
Roach rode her scooter down to the great hall of the original Watkins Mansion at 2:30 p.m. to listen to live music. She parked her scooter in the aisle, sat and listened to the accordion player sing Johnny Cash’s popular song, “Ring of Fire.”
Later, after supper, Roach gathered her deck and bingo pads, returned a phone call to the doctor’s office, and headed out of her apartment to meet friends for nightly cards.
Roach and Elva Rogers chatted about politics, their husbands and the recent earthquake in Japan while passing the time waiting for other players to arrive.
Half of an hour ticked by on the clock overhead.
Roach and Rogers road the elevator together to the third floor. They turned to enter their respective apartments, calling it a night.
For the last time that day, Roach parked her scooter back in its home spot, sat in her arm chair, put her feet up and turned on the TV. She watched the brightly lit screen until she went to bed at 8 p.m.
“I’m not afraid of meeting my day,” Roach said. “[I’m] ready to die any day. I had a good life; the Lord has been good to me. I lived to get this old. I’m happy. I’m just thankful I got to live one more day.”