Florence Timmerman, a lifelong Northsider, just celebrated her 100th birthday on January 18. While shoveling for Ms. Timmerman, the Boys to Men Club in Folwell discovered her birthday was coming up and rallied up some help in the neighborhood to bake a cake and celebrate her. I had the great privilege of calling Florence ahead of time to make sure she was home. I had never met her before, but had heard many stories of her dedication and big heart for the students at Patrick Henry High School. Hearing her joy and gratefulness left me teary eyed. She continued to repeat, “Why? Why would these kids want to take their own time to come wish me a happy birthday?”
Well Florence Timmerman, because you have been a pillar in this community and an advocate for these young people for generations. Because turning 100 is a big deal to these kids who are still a little confused that cell phones weren’t a thing when you were growing up. Because you are kind and open hearted to them when they come to your home. You smile and hug every one of them. You appreciate them. You let them invade your home with their snowy boots and pile their winter gear all over your furniture so they can sit on the floor and eat cake and listen to you. Even now, you are a teacher who comes alive with the opportunity to invest in the neighborhood kids. You open your heart and your home to them and they feel loved.
After the kids made cake and cards, then brought them to Florence, we all sat down to enjoy cake with her while the youth asked her questions about her life.
Where did you grow up?
“I grew up on 37th and Bryant. I lived there before the street was put in. Can you believe that?”
What were some of your favorite things to do when you were our age?
“I loved to play at Camden Park. Do you play there? I would go walk to the library and get new books all the time. I loved to read. I would play with my friends and we would play the game, who could find the most four leaf clovers! Have you ever played that?”
“Now I must tell you, I never ran away, but I loved to explore and would often have the whole neighborhood out looking for me. I never meant any harm. And it was a good neighborhood. We have always been proud to live here.”
What was your favorite memory?
“When the first radio came in. I loved listening to the radio. It was a very big deal back then. I also loved riding the train. We got to ride the train because my father was a railroad man. He would walk to the street car down on Fremont and take that all the way downtown to the Depot. That’s where the train station was. He loved working for the railroad.”
Ms. Timmerman sat for quite some time with these kids. They hung on every word she said, and she sat spinning tales of a time long past. It was beautiful to witness this kind hearted, spirited woman who dedicated her life to the youth of the community, still doing it at 100 years old. Thank you so much Florence Timmerman for being so incredibly gracious and welcoming. What an inspiration you are!
Florence Timmerman lives in her own home in the Folwell Neighborhood with her sister who turned 104 in September.