Hudnell looks back on past 101 years


Esther Hudnell was born on April 6, 1923, to Walter R. and Leta Furbay. The family lived on the Furbay Farm on U.S. Route 42, which was in the Furbay family for five generations. Hudnell’s brothers, Walter and Harold, helped with the farming, while she mainly helped her mother with the housework and things inside the home.

When asked her secret for living to 101 years of age, Hudnell’s answer was, “God just gave me one day at a time.” She added that her brother Harold had lived to 99 and brother Walter lived to 95, while her parents also lived into their 90s.

Hudnell is a resident of Woodside Village Care Center in Mount Gilead, living across the hall from Don Kelly who celebrated his 101st birthday on May 19.

Woodside social worker Mallory Dougherty said both Hudnell and Kelly are very aware, and their minds are sharp and clear. She called it a pleasure to work with them and see them engage in activities and with people at Woodside. They both enjoy visitors.

Hudnell attended the one room “Quakerdom School” through eighth grade. It was located where the Gilead Friends Church parking lot is now on U.S. Route 42. A teacher who stands out in her mind was Helen Burggraf. She said she had many good teachers, and she’s not sure why Burggraf “sticks out” in her mind.

Hudnell graduated from Mount Gilead High School in 1940. Her classmates included Martha (Geyer) Kubbs, Jack Logan, and Jonathan Hudnell, who she later married.

Two of Hudnell’s high school teachers who lived in Mount Gilead many years were Julia (Campbell) Shirk and Gertrude “Trudy” (VanSickle) Clapper. Hudnell’s activities listed in the yearbook included Future Homemakers and Music Club.

Music has been an important part of Hudnell’s life. “Even as a small child I loved hymns and music,” she said.

Hudnell took piano lessons as a child and recalls riding her bike to her piano teacher’s home on Airport Road. Organ lessons came later, and she was the organist for many years at Gilead Friends Church. Heidi (Van Romer) Vitte recalls her playing the organ at Gilead Friends Church and playing the organ at her wedding. Hudnell said she played for many weddings at the church.

Hudnell is proud of her sons David and Dennis. David and his wife, Victoria “Tori”, live in a suburb of Rochester, New York, and Dennis and his wife, Pauletta, live in Iberia. While the Sentinel was interviewing Hudnell, a call came in from Pauletta to let her know their grandson, Hudnell’s great-grandson Cole, was accepted to Akron University’s program at Tri-Rivers Career Center.

David’s daughter Emily and PJ Kemerer live in Pittsburg, and their daughters Annabelle and Madeline are both involved in music, marching band and school musicals. David’s son Noah and his wife, Bethany, live just 12 minutes away with their son Isaiah.

Dennis’ daughter Jayme and her family live on the “old Furbay home place” on Route 42. His daughter Lynette and Dev Murphy live in Lexington, Kentucky. They are professional swim coaches, and Lynette just returned from Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center.

It’s apparent that Hudnell keeps up with family and friends in many ways. A friend stopped by to give her a copy of The Morrow County Sentinel, and when the Woodside hairdresser stopped by, Hudnell asked when she would be leaving for vacation. She also spoke of enjoying visits from a group from Edison Enterprise Baptist Church.

She especially appreciated Pastor Ed and Susie Colgrove and the Edison group who made it a point to visit her when her Woodside room was moved from one part of the building to a new room down the hall.

Hudnell worked at the Morrow County Superintendent of Schools office located in the County Courthouse for 30 years. She worked for four superintendents as office manager. She retired when the computer system changed and now the county schools are with Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center (MOESC). After she retired, she became a volunteer for Hope Line, now HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow County, for many years. A HelpLine volunteer remembers her being very dedicated in working at the Hope Line call center.

The COVID epidemic was hard on Hudnell. She said she lost much strength and her walking ability after the illness. She still goes to physical therapy appointments at Woodside and is getting around in her room with the help of a walker. She expressed appreciation for her nurses and aides and is concerned for them. “They work so hard. I worry about them and pray for them every day.”

Faith is a theme running through Hudnell’s life. She still hums hymns sometimes when she’s trying to get to sleep, although she doesn’t want to bother her roommate. Two favorite hymns she mentioned are “Constantly abiding” and “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

“Mom has always been a spiritual rock in my life,” said David Hudnell. “She and her parents, Walter and Leta Furbay, have blessed our growing family with the rich heritage of the Quakers (now Evangelical Friends Church).”

A well-worn Bible and book of devotions are beside Hudnell’s chair. “Quiet Moments with God” was a gift from Pastor Charles Robinson’s wife Edna. A few pages are almost falling out of the book, and the cover is duct taped, but she reads it daily with her devotions.

Alberta Stojkovic is a correspondent for The Morrow County Sentinel. She can be reached at [email protected].

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