Highland News Leader

Woman who lived there for 100 years says, 'Highland is a wonderful place to be'

Viola Deibert lived in Highland for 100 years. The long-time Highland resident turned 104 on April 25.
Viola Deibert lived in Highland for 100 years. The long-time Highland resident turned 104 on April 25. mbraa@bnd.com

Viola Marie Deibert will celebrate her 104th birthday with her family at the Rosewood Care Center in Edwardsville. But for the first century of her life, the only place she ever called home was Highland.

"She spent all of her life in Highland. She never left Highland until we brought her over here to the nursing home," said Alvin Deibert Jr., her son.

Viola moved to Rosewood Care Center from Faith Countryside in Highland apartments four years ago.

While her son, 79, credits his mother's long life to "good genes," Viola says her secret is lots of hard work.

"All I know is work," she said.

Viola was born on April 25, 1914 in Highland to Nelson and Ella (nee Steiner) Mueller. However, her father died when she was young, and the responsibility to raise her fell on her German immigrant grandparents.

"My grandparents, they were old-fashioned," she said.

They taught her to value a life of work, church and family.

She began working at 14. Her first job was at the Highland Shoe Factory. She said she had no high school education, and her first wages were 14 cents an hour.

From the shoe factory, Viola said she went to work at an egg plant. She remembers dressing in a white uniform and cracking eggs on an assembly line.

Later, she was employed making holiday decorations, like wreaths and ornaments. She also worked briefly at Baer's Restaurant.

But her calling was in retail. She began her sales career working at John Green, later known as P.N. Hirsche.

"I could run the register and everything," Viola said.

She was often named top sales woman in the region.

She went on to work at Dollar General until she was 79 years old, when Highland store closed briefly before later reopening in Northtown Plaza. If the store had not temporarily shuttered, Viola said she might still be working there today.

Some of her fondest memories outside of work include going to the L&M Tavern with friends. It was a great place to dance. She especially liked to waltz and jitterbug.

"And drink a little beer," she said.

When she was young, she also loved to go to barn and platform dances. It was at one of these events where she met her husband, Alvin. Together, they had two children, Alvin Jr., who lives in Edwardsville, and Gee Gee Spies, who lives in Old Ripley. Her daughter also gave her one granddaughter, Nicki, who lives in Edwardsville.

Eventually, the family would settled down at 1207 Poplar St. in Highland, a house her husband for her birthday. Viola said she enjoyed keeping the house clean, and loved to cook her signature zucchini bread and angel food cake. She lived there until she was 92, when she moved Faith Countryside apartments.

While she now lives in another town now, Viola said her heart will always be in Highland.

"Highland is a wonderful place to be," she said.