Way of life is just a memory for 100-year-old

Jacob Wiegand/The Herald
Although she also lived in Michigan, Arizona and Texas, Anice “Bobby” McNair eventually returned to Selvin and lives about two miles down the road from where she was born 100 years ago on Oct. 5, 1917. “Oh just the people that was here and that are still here,” McNair said when asked about her favorite thing about her hometown.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

SELVIN — When Anice “Bobby” (Evans) McNair was born in Selvin, her uncle, Frank Lamar, asked his sister what her name was. Claiming he’d never remember the name Anice, he said, “I’ll just call her Bobby.” That nickname has stuck around for a century.

The daughter of Oscar “Ev” and Della (Lamar) Evans celebrated her 100th birthday last weekend in a cabin on Yellowbanks Lake in Selvin about two miles from where she was born. She left Selvin for the first time at age 24 with her then husband, Allen Mickel, a “Selvin boy.” The couple moved to Detroit, Michigan where Mickel worked in a factory. When World War II heated up, however, the couple moved back to Selvin because they didn’t like the idea of being in a city during the war. Plus, all their family still lived in Selvin.

McNair remembers the town being patriotic during the war. A lot of the men, including all of McNair’s brothers— McNair is one of 10 children — went into the military. Those who stayed behind, like Mickel, often worked in Evansville manufacturing supplies and equipment such as ships for the war effort.

“The whole town was just all in for the war,” McNair said.

McNair gave birth to four daughters while in Selvin— Myrna, Rita, Donna and Karen.

Myrna and Karen have both passed, Donna now lives in Florida and Rita lives in Texas.

McNair gave birth to three daughters at home with the help of a Dale doctor, John Barrow.

After the war, McNair and Mickel moved their family back to Michigan where the couple eventually divorced.

For a time, McNair was a single mother of four working in a factory in Royal Oak, Michigan. She met Kenneth McNair, and the two married in 1955. McNair remembers spending their wedding night with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. The couple traveled to Toledo, Ohio to get married, and the team happened to be in the same hotel. When the team found out the McNairs were newlyweds, they celebrated together.

“We had a blast,” McNair said. “We were up until 4 a.m.”

The couple lived in Michigan for a while before moving to Selvin where Kenneth passed away in 1992 at the age of 63. As a widow, McNair went to live with Karen in Tucson, Arizona, and then Rita in Texas. She moved back to Selvin and into her lakeside cabin 15 years ago at age 85.

“Her exact words: ‘I was born in Indiana, and I want to die in Indiana,’” recalled Rita Fuller, McNair’s daughter.

McNair never expected to still be living in that cabin. At age 100, her biggest piece of advice is don’t ever wish to be 100 because everyone you know is gone. McNair is the last of 10 siblings, and she’s outlived two of her daughters. Although she’s surrounded by the descendents of people she grew up with in Selvin and has 10 grandkids, 14 great-grandkids and six great-great grandkids, it’s not the same.

“Everyone you used to know is gone,” she said.

Gone, too, is the way of life she knew.

Unlike many people at the time, McNair graduated high school in 1934. She still remembers riding her horse eight miles one way to Tennyson each day for school before a paved road and school bus came to Selvin.

At age 4, McNair could already read and knew her numbers, so the teacher in Selvin let her come to school. McNair zoomed through the kindergarten primer and first-grade materials in the first year. The only two subjects she ever struggled with were geometry and algebra.

“I was dumber than a rock when it came to that,” she said.

McNair grew up on a farm where her family grew all their own food, butchered their own meat and made their own clothes.

During the Great Depression, her family had enough to feed 18 people, six of them men from the town who had fallen on hard times. People don’t grow their own food anymore, she pointed out. And if another Great Depression hits, she’s sure people these days would “starve to death.” 

Despite her age, McNair is healthy. She still lives independently, has her memory and only recently had a minor stroke. When asked about her secret to a long life, she blushed.

“I don’t think I better answer that,” she said. “I just lived a healthy life.”




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