At 110, Nebraska Woman Still Going Strong

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Everything you'd expect to be part of a 110th birthday was there: cake, balloons, presents, family and dozens of guests.

But Abeline "Abby" Wrage Spiehs, the one celebrating the birthday, still seemed to be deep in disbelief.

"Who would have ever thought I'd get so old?" she wondered out loud to no one in particular after partygoers at Tiffany Square Care Center had finished singing "Happy Birthday" on Thursday afternoon.

It was a remarkable celebration for the woman believed to be Nebraska's oldest living person, one Spiehs took in with a calm, easygoing attitude, thanking everyone who stopped by to wish her a happy birthday.

Of course, that didn't mean she was without wry comments for them, too.

To Agnes Kotrc, a 105-year-old fellow resident at Tiffany Square:

"Oh, you're getting up there."

To Clarence Schnuelle, age 101:

"You've got a few years to go before you catch up with me."

Spiehs may have had a longer life than most, but it hasn't always been easy. Her husband, Ferdinand "Nance" Spiehs, died in 1939, leaving her to raise three boys by herself.

She supported herself by working at a bakery in Grand Island.

"She never had any help," said her son, Phil Spiehs of Grand Island. "She had to do it all on her own."

Spiehs retired at age 67 and lived by herself until age 105, when a bad spill led her to Tiffany Square.

She's since completely lost her eyesight through years of macular degeneration, but Tiffany Square workers said she hasn't lost a strong will and winning attitude.

Mary Ruhs, Tiffany Square's life enrichment coordinator, said Spiehs never has a bad word for anyone, even on the days when her arthritis is acting up or she's feeling extra aches and pains.

"She just has that spirit of taking each day as it comes and looking for the best in everybody," Ruhs said.

Spiehs said she knows she's lucky to have made it this far, and she's thankful for each morning that comes. Her optimism has limits, though.

"When I was 100, I thought that would be my very last year," Spiehs said. "And now here I am, 10 years later."

So how about another 10 years?

"Oh, God, no!"