GALLIPOLIS — Helen McNealey West may not be able to remember many things, but she sure can recall some of the important ones.
One is the fact that she has lived in Gallipolis her entire life, which isn’t too shabby considering she’s an extremely lucid 100-year-old woman.
“I’ve lived here on this square all my life,” she said of the house she’s called home since she was 5 years old – which was 1920. She added that she was actually born at a home two doors away from her current dwelling.
West was well aware of family and friends who stopped at her home during an open house Thursday to celebrate her 100th birthday. While she says she knew many of the people in her home Thursday, she has trouble remembering their names.
“I tend to forget now and then,” she said.
West has witnessed many changes, but couldn’t remember them all.
“Gallipolis has changed. I won’t say it’s gone downhill, but we don’t have all the stores that we used to have. That’s sad,” she said. “You could go into town and meet a lot of people that you knew.”
West was born Sept. 17, 1915, the daughter of the late John C. and Mittie (Fadeley) McNealey. She graduated from Gallia Academy High School in 1933 and immediately went to work for Commercial & Savings Bank as a bookkeeper.
“I worked for 40 years at Commercial & Savings Bank, which was in the Hotel Lafayette Building,” she said. “I could just walk to work, come home for lunch, and then go back. I loved my job.”
West retired from the bank in 1973. She credits GAHS for getting her the job at the bank.
“At that time, we had an office training class (at GAHS),” she said. “The teachers would put the students, if they were good in shorthand or typing, into the stores. They put me in the Commercial & Savings Bank. I knew the people in that bank, too. Some of them were my neighbors around here.”
In 1952, West married the love of her life, Wendell F. West, in Cincinnati. She has been a member of First Presbyterian Church of Gallipolis since 1938; is a lifetime member of the Gallia Historical Society; and was one of the first members of the Gallipolis Garden Club, where she has been able to express her love for flower gardening.
Some of the attendees of West’s open house included Gallipolis city commissioners Tony Gallagher and Michael Brown, who each gave Gallipolis’ newest centenarian a proclamation from the city. Gallia County Commissioner Harold Montgomery also presented West with a proclamation, as well as Gallia County’s official flag.
Many of the open house attendees, including Gallagher, asked West her secret to longevity. Her response was similar to one asked earlier by another of her party guests.
“Shredded wheat,” she said.
But on a more serious note, West said she credits her faith for staying healthy for the past century.
“It’s the good Lord’s will that I’ve been here this long,” she said. “That’s how I feel about it. It’s up to Him.”
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.