There are few of us around today who can say that their father had met President Abraham Lincoln. Nu-Roc Nursing Home resident Cecilia Webb, 98, may be the only Wisconsinite who can make that claim.
“He was the ugliest, but the nicest man he had ever seen,” was the way Cecilia said
her father described his encounter with the President following the Civil War. “He had
such a great big nose and feet.” Cecilia’s father met the President when he was
awarded a silver medal for wounds received in the Civil War.
If you ever thought that living to be 98 would be boring, you haven’t spent an afternoon
with Cecilia. She is living proof that senility and old age are not synonymous.
“I know what I am doing, I’m real smart,” she told this reporter with a twinkle in her eye.
The morning I spent with Cecilia in the screen house at Nu-Rock was filled with humor
Following a compliment on her snow white hair she responded, “Do you like it? I’m just
waiting until I get really old so I can have red hair, and every one then will excuse it by
saying “it’s ok, it’s her age you know,” she informed me with a chuckle.
One doesn’t live to be close to a hundred without seeing a lot of changes, some of them
good, and some of them bad.
Cecilia took me on nostalgia trips of her parents, brothers and sisters and her own
family and their families. As the morning progressed it became apparent that the life of
Cecilia Webb was closely connected to the history of Laona.
Ten-year-old Cecilia arrived in Laona in 1900 when her father, Patrick McHugh came to
deliver groceries to the logging camps. At that time, she said, there were only 12 or
15 families in the area and the sawmill was in the process of being completed by Tony
Koket and a man by the last name of Tyler.
The McHugh’s stayed with their cousin John Delamater’s, who was the first Laona
Postmaster, until their own home was completed.
She told of the days when she attended a one room school house that had four windows
that doubled as a slate for their school work. Her mother was the school teacher.
The first Laona priest came from Appleton and he was stationed in a small one-room building located on the grounds of the present Catholic Church.
The first Communion class, Cecilia said, had their picnic in 1904 on the Sargent’s lawn. Mabel Rice was the first teacher and came here from Gillett. Mr. Rice was the first section boss in Laona.
Cecilia married Leon Webb in 1910 and they had eight children, Agnes (Carter), Leonard (deceased), Willard, Audrey (Greenman, deceased), Wilma (LaBine), Edward, Larry and Leon.
Following the trips of nostalgia when the good times along with some of the sad times were shared with me, Cecilia looked out across the woods and summed up the effect the changes had upon her life through the way she views the trees of the northwoods that have been there through all the years.
“All I’ve seen since I was ten years old was trees,” she said. “I used to like them, but I don’t anymore, they make me lonesome.”
Cecilia quickly recovered from the sad thoughts and ended the morning by telling me about her dentures that she faithfully keeps in a cup in her room, waiting for the day when she decides she is old enough to ‘really’ need them.
~ End of Story ~