Friends, family are invited to help Flo Runion celebrate her 95th birthday Saturday, Feb. 15
Flo Etta Runion will celebrate her 95th birthday at a party to be hosted by her family from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at The Center in Gainesville. All friends and family are invited; Flo asks that guests come with smiles and greetings, maybe cards but no gifts.
She was born Feb. 16, 1925, “down here in the holler below where I live now,” she said Monday, describing the home of her parents, George and Martha Wattenbarger Hannaford. She grew up on the family farm and walked 4 1/2 miles, following a “cow path” through the woods with her brothers, to attend the one-room school at Brushy Knob. She graduated from Gainesville High School in 1947 and was offered a college scholarship. “But I didn’t use it,” she said. “I thought I wanted to get married.”
She had met Coy Runion, a handsome boy from Dawt, “at a church meeting one night,” Flo said. Coy hadn’t gone to high school after finishing eighth grade at the one-room school at Dawt. On Oct. 14, 1947, a few months after Flo’s high school graduation, they were married in Mountain Home, Arkansas. After exchanging their vows, they returned to Ozark County and had supper with the Hannafords and then went on to the Bletch Gaddy farm, where Coy worked, to begin their life together.
In a short time, Coy got a job with Isom Corp, his uncle, who operated a ball bat mill. “They sawed the wood blocks and took them to West Plains to be finished into bats,” Flo said. After a year or so, the Runions moved to another farm where Coy worked; then they headed to Kansas City. After a year or so they came back to Ozark County then returned again to Kansas City. “The money was better up there,” said Flo, who worked “part-time downtown at a candy store” while Coy worked for General Motors and then for an electric company.
They returned to Ozark County for good when Flo’s dad retired from what is now the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Gainesville maintenance shed. “Coy got that job, and he worked for MoDOT for 33 years,” Flo said. “He was foreman at the Gainesville shed.”
They bought land from her parents and created a home where Flo spent her time “taking care of my babies, making a garden, cutting wood – I’ve done everything under the sun, so I can tell you, hard work won’t hurt you,” she said.
Coy retired from MoDOT after suffering a heart attack. He died June 26, 2011.
“I thought I could never make it when my husband passed, but I laid it all on God’s hands,” she said. “There’s no way around, but the Lord can help you get through it.”
These days, she says, “I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m happy. If I want to do something, I usually do it here at home,” she said, describing her comfortable home off Highway 181. “Home is a happy place for me. I don’t want to leave it.”
She voluntarily stopped driving a couple of years ago, “I even went and turned in my license and got an ID card,” she said. Her children and friends provide any needed transportation now. She attends Souder Church of Christ when her daughter Brenda Hampton takes her, and she attends Dawt Church of Christ when her other daughter, Karen McKee, takes her. She also has a son, Gainesville resident Phillip Runion, plus eight grandchildren, “lots” of great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
“Five generations,” she said.
She’s looking forward to her 95th birthday party next week and likes that it’s on Feb. 15. Coy’s birthday was Feb. 14, and hers is Feb. 16, so the couple always celebrated their two birthdays on the same day: Feb. 15. She had a party on her 90th birthday, “and I’m already planning for a party on my 100th,” she said, laughing at the thought that her family can save the decorations. “Just change the number,”she said.
Flo has COPD, and “my legs are wobbly and weak,” she said. “But I feel wonderful. Life is happy or sad, whichever way you make it.”