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112-year-old Lansing woman survived Bath School Bombing and second pandemic

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 5:09 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The eighth oldest woman in the United States calls Lansing her home. She is also the second oldest living woman in the state.

Irene Dunham is quite the superwoman; experiencing her second pandemic as she soon turns 113 on December 16.

“I wish I could be number one [oldest living woman in Michigan], I’ve been hanging on for a long time,” said Irene.

“She’s been in her house for 85 years and lived alone for 48 years until this last June when we put her in assisted living,” said Bruce Dunham, Irene’s 74-year-old-son.

Irene has lived through a lot of history in her lifetime, she was born in Clinton County and was raised in Bath, MI and attended Bath Community Schools.

She survived two world wars, went through the Great Depression, school bombing and colon cancer at 90 and two pandemics,” said Bruce.

She may be the last person living who experienced the Bath school bombing in May of 1927.

“That was terrible that day...many years ago now,” Irene said. “I heard it when it blew up. I was home because I had a sore throat, and it was our graduation day. I was supposed to be there but I wasn’t.”

“They [Irene and her mother] heard the explosion from her farm a couple miles away. Her mother put her in the car to drive [there],” said Bruce. “They saw body parts hanging from telephone lines and mothers on their knees crying over their dead children.”

“We drove as fast as we could to get to Bath because we figured it must have been the school when we got there. It sure was,” said Irene. “Oh, it was terrible dear”.

Irene is one of eight children. All have died except her brother who is 101 years old.

Of course, she offered some life advice.

“Just live from day-to-day and do the best you can,” said Irene. “[Don’t] hurt anybody. I never in my life hurt anyone. I have been happy, mostly just working out in my garden.”

“Her mind is good.. she just can’t hear well,” Bruce said.

He told News 10 “she is sharp and healthy.”

Irene not only remembers history, but she stays up-to-date on current events.

“Honey, I’m getting so old, I don’t know what else to do,” she said. “Oh, I look forward to the State Journal.”

“She reads the newspaper every day,” said Bruce.

Irene told News 10 she is looking forward to her 113th birthday. She also mentioned what she hopes to do.

I wish my hair could be brown. It used to be a beautiful medium brown. Now, I’d be satisfied if they make it kind of a light brown...not this white. I don’t like this white,” said Irene.

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