By Ryan Schwab
FORT WAYNE — Blanchie Schultz never got the chance to be a teacher.
That doesn’t mean she wasn’t an educator.
Saturday, on her 100th birthday, Schultz was given the gift she yearned for as a child. Dr. Gloria Shamanoff, assistant superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools, presented Schultz with an honorary Carroll High School diploma.
Schultz, who grew up in Ege in Noble County, was also recently presented with an honorary high school degree from East Noble High School.
“It’s wonderful, but it doesn’t make me any smarter,” Schultz told members of her family during a birthday celebration at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church.
Five generations of family were present.
“We have been very blessed,” Terry Perry, Schultz’s granddaughter said. “There is not a whole lot of people that can say that they have someone who is 100-years-old in their family and can have five generations under one roof. (The honorary diploma) brought the people that didn’t know about it to tears. I knew it was coming, so it didn’t bring me to tears, but I am beaming with joy.
“It means so much to her. Granted, this isn’t graduating, but it’s the next best thing. It gives her a sense of accomplishment that she is being recognized for all the teaching she has done. It’s an amazing thing that NACS has done.”
Growing up in rural Noble County as one of six children, Schultz wasn’t allowed to attend high school. Her mother halted her education after eighth-grade. Perry said Schultz’s mother, Hazel, even made her repeat the eighth-grade because she wasn’t old enough (15) to quit school (16).
Her teacher, however, allowed her to teach reading, writing and math to the young students at the one-room schoolhouse in Ege.
“Back then, it was still a man’s world and women were supposed to stay home and be barefoot and expecting, so to speak. Her mother said she didn’t need a high school education to be a housewife,” Perry said. “Her wisdom is much greater than (eighth-grade).”
Schultz worked with her parents at Ort Farms before becoming a farmer and housewife.
Today, she remains in relatively good health. Some past bouts of anemia have impacted her short-term memory, but Perry said her long-term memory is still amazing.
Schultz still lives in the farmhouse on Hathaway Road the family has farmed since the 1950’s. She takes care of herself and even mows her own yard. Perry lives behind the family barn and is just a yelp away.
“Her thing is that you have to keep on going, because when you stop doing it, you won’t be able to do it,” Perry said. “She instilled a love of learning because she was deprived of it. She made all of us understand how important it was to learn all you can when you can.”
Her great-granddaughter, Beverly, a 2008 Carroll High School graduate, said Schultz taught her how to read, write and do math before she ever attended kindergarten. Beverly graduated from Ball State University in 2013 and is a meteorologist for Fox 47 in Lansing, Michigan.
“She inspired me to want to learn,” Beverly Perry said. “Most kids are turned off to learning, but she taught me everything I needed to learn before kindergarten. From the alphabet, to cursive and all the math. She has allowed me to love learning and made things interesting.”
Terry Perry taught at Carroll High School for nearly 20 years. She said a number of her cousins have taught and worked for NACS and her grandfather drove a school bus for the district. Even though Schultz would have attended the Noble County school system — attending one-room school houses in Ege and LaOtto — the family lineage in northwest Allen County made for a perfect pairing with NACS.
“(Schultz) was one who worked hard but didn’t have the opportunity to go to high school, which was not uncommon in those days. She valued education and instilled that into her family. She was a teacher at heart,” Shamanoff said. “We are delighted to present her today with this honorary diploma.
“Our life is a teacher to us. If we are so fortunate to live so long a life, then we will have touched many lives.”
Schultz has two children, eight grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren, all of whom she continues to educate to this day.