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Arthurdale honors resident’s 100th birthday

ARTHURDALE, W.Va. -- Dozens streamed in and out of the Arthurdale Heritage Center on Saturday to honor the community's oldest resident and the only living original homesteader left there.

Hazel Bonnette turned 100 on Jan. 11, and her family held an open house for the centenarian on Saturday.

She was seated in the front of the room at her own table, dressed in a dark purple outfit, complete with a matching corsage. Her table was never empty, as friends and relatives sat to eat with her and talk. Her mind is sharp, and she seemed to enjoy her party - even drinking a glass of wine near the end of the afternoon.

Bonnette certainly is the quintessence of living history, carrying with her memories of 77 years of life in Arthurdale. The community was established 80 years ago as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal legislation.

She was born in Morgantown on Jan. 11, 1913, the oldest of seven children of Howard and Golda Jenkins. Until she was 8 years old, she lived with her family in a boarding house in Sabraton owned by her grandparents.

Then her parents purchased a dairy farm on Greenbag Road just south of Morgantown, where she lived until she married Claude Bonnette in 1933. Her first daughter, Jean, was born that same year.

In 1936, the family was accepted to live in Arthurdale. Their first home was a smaller building on B Road. Bonnette didn't care for that house, said her daughter, Jean McLaughlin.

But Bonnette did like the larger stone houses. When one opened up on M Road in 1942, she asked the community's administration to move, and she has lived in that house ever since.

"I liked our house where we lived," Bonnette said.

In all, Bonnette had four children: Jean, Claudette, Tom and Suzie.

McLaughlin describes her mother as someone who loved to work around the house, including her favorite hobby - tending to her garden and flowers. Poppies are her favorite, McLaughlin said.

Bonnette was also supportive of her husband's desire to be part of the cooperative aspect of Arthurdale, though perhaps not as visibly. While Claude participated in the community band and was on the Arthurdale Board of Directors and the medical board, Bonnette threw her energy into the more domestic aspects of the community.

She canned all the vegetables that were brought in from the family's garden and also was knowledgeable in latch hooking. Her children also remember her making fresh bread and pepperoni rolls.

"That was her life - her family," McLaughlin said.

When all the children graduated from high school and moved out, Bonnette occupied herself by working in the Arthurdale School's kitchen.

"The principal lived across the street," McLaughlin said. "He got Mother a job working at the cafeteria. It gave her something to do."

Claude died in 2001 at age 92, and McLaughlin returned to Arthurdale a few years later to help care for her mother, who still resides in the house on M Road. In addition to Bonnette's four children, she has 11 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, many of whom were present at the party on Saturday, traveling from as far away as California.

"She doesn't want to die," McLaughlin said. "She's just real homey. She loves her kids and she loves her grandkids."

 


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