PRINCETON — By her own account, life has been good to Inez Pumphrey.
She was raised well by her parents in Fort Branch, attended college at Oakland City, and enjoyed 20 years as a teacher in South Gibson. She and her husband Olen Pumphrey spent 61 years together before his death in 2009, 40 of which they worked together to maintain his veterinary practice.
Monday marked Pumphrey's 104th birthday, but she said it felt just like other days.
While it may have felt that way, it didn’t necessarily look that way. There was a large cake with purple flowers, balloons attached to the handles of her wheelchair and multiple bouquets sent from friends decorated her room at RiverOaks Health Campus. She even donned a button reading. "It's my birthday. (I deserve attention.)"
Pumphrey has been at RiverOaks for about five years, but prior to that, she lived in Fort Branch where she was born and raised.
She attended Oakland City University, where she became certified to teach Kindergarten through eighth grade. She later continued her education and would go on to teach English and physical education at the high school level.
“Teaching was good,” Pumphrey said. “Then when it over, I realized how hard it was.”
Over her 20 years, Pumphrey could clearly identify a favorite part of being the classroom.
“The children,” she said. “Their love of you and your love of them”
Pumphrey also spent her time assisting her husband with his veterinary practice, which he had opened a year before they married after attending college at Kansas State University. Prior to that, he had worked as a teller for The Farmers and Merchants National Bank for seven years after graduating high school.
Pumphrey said being a veterinarian's wife was “interesting.” She helped with the animals, which could vary from cats and dogs to cows. There was even a snake brought in once by a woman who had found it near her car.
“Dr. Pumphrey said, ‘you can just take that back,’” she said with a smile.
Pumphrey said her husband liked cows the best, and while she was raised in the country, she leaned more toward dogs. Her mother always said it was fortunate she liked animals.
Both Pumphrey and her husband sought secondary education as a path for their lives, her as a teacher, him as a vet, and the two now help others heading in that direction with scholarships through the Dr. Z Olen and Inez Graper Pumphrey Foundation.
The two did not have children of their own, and Pumphrey said the chance to provide scholarships “seemed like what was made for us.”
The foundation supplies the means for students to attend college to multiple schools in southern Indiana.
“(The foundation) will go on doing that, forever,” Pumphrey said.
Pumphrey said she doesn’t get to meet every student who has received a scholarship, though she has met some. There are usually pictures or letters sent from the students through the schools.
Pumphrey was back in her room Monday when she received another bouquet, this one with hints of purple that complimented the decorations on the cake she’d shared earlier with everyone in the dining room.
“Oh," she said. "Where will we put them?”