Allensville’s Lauretta Borgman at 90: ‘serving her community and writing the news’

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This Tuesday, September 18th, Allensville icon Lauretta Borgman will turn 90 years old – but don’t assume for a minute that she’s slowing down as she nears the milestone.

Quite the opposite – although she does allow a little more time for getting around.

“I’m busy,” she smiles. “I’m old and slow, but I’m busy.”

It’s Tuesday morning, which means Lauretta Borgman has been up and going for quite awhile. She drives herself from her home in Allensville to the Vevay Newspapers office to drop off her Allensville news column – a report on the comings and goings of her community that she’s written for more than 62 years.

After that, it’s on to the Swiss Villa Living Center, where she meets up with friends each Tuesday morning to help with a church service for the residents.

“I call it the sing-along, because that’s what it is,” Lauretta Borgman says. “I play the piano for that most of the time. This week I called Frances Weaver and asked her to come, because I didn’t know if I could play or not.”

After a few tunes by Frances Weaver, Lauretta Borgman did move behind the piano, helping service leader John Scudder provide music for the enjoyment of the residents.

It’s a trip to Swiss Villa that she’s been making every Tuesday for more than 10 years.

“Audrey Casey started that, but then she moved back to Kentucky,” she said. “When she left, I started. I’ve been there ever since.”

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Lauretta Borgman was the piano and organ player at the Allensville United Methodist Church for years until the congregation closed its doors; and now plays at Aberdeen United Methodist Church, where she attends each Sunday along with dear friend Patty Works.

“I played at the Allensville church since I was 15 until it closed,” Lauretta Borgman says. “Our church had an organ when I was a girl but we didn’t have a piano. They were getting rid of pianos that came from the city, and they brought them to Moorefield for an auction. I went over and bid one in for our church when I was 15 years old. We used that piano until about 5-10 years before we closed.”

Her faith is a big part of Lauretta Borgman’s life, and along with playing music, she’s also written hymns and poems. She will tell you that when it comes to hymns – there’s nothing like the old standards.

“A lot of the older hymns had sermons right in them,” she says. “I can play the music and sing the words, and I’ve been to church.”

Lauretta Borgman has been a member of Eastern Star for over 60 years; and she is also a charter member of the White Shrine of Jerusalem, which was founded here 50 years ago this past February.

“Not many people know of it,” she says. “It was organized in Rising Sun and now there’s some chapters in Indiana, but none near us.”

She plays the piano for the Eastern Star, too, and says that she’ll keep up the piano playing until a Higher Power tells her to stop.

“As long as the Lord lets me use my fingers, I’m willing to go down to the nursing home and to meetings and church and play,” Lauretta Borgman says. “When He stops it, that will be it.”

Along with her hymns and poems about her faith, Lauretta Borgman has been an avid writer of poems and songs of all types.

She says that she has no idea how many songs and poems she’s written, but has written a book, “Hoosier Breezes”, and confesses that she’s got enough material for at least two more. She’s written Christmas songs and Easter songs; and she’s composed poems and songs about nearly every facet of her life.

“Most of the time, whatever comes up – whether I’m mad, glad, happy or unhappy – I put it to rhyme,” she states. “It works for me. It’s a joy to do it.”

She remembers that Dorothy Works was her teacher in the eighth grade, and that she made the class learn nearly every poem by heart in their textbook, which probably contributed to Lauretta’s love of poetry.

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For more than 62 years Lauretta Borgman has penned the Allensville news for Vevay Newspapers.

In 1945 when Jessie Tinker and her husband moved to Rising Sun, Jessie had to relinquish her duties as the Allensville correspondent.

Lauretta Borgman took over – and the rest is truly journalism history.

“They moved in the Spring,” Lauretta remembers. “I figure on April, but I may have started in March – but that was a long time ago. Back then, people sold out and moved in the spring because the new owners needed to get started planting their crops for the year.”

So from that time the Allensville news has been reported by Lauretta Borgman.

She prefers to type her news, and the preferred method is on an old, manual typewriter that she can’t remember where or how or when she purchased. She does, however, remember her first one.

“When my first husband, Ralph, went off to fight in World War II, he left the house one day and wouldn’t let me go with him and he wouldn’t tell me where he was going,” Lauretta Borgman smiles. “I was pretty mad that I didn’t get to go along, but when he came home he gave me a little portable typewriter. I always figured that he gave it to me so I could type him letters – because I never really had pretty handwriting.”

She also continues to be active in volunteering for the American Cancer Society, having volunteered for decades to collect money to help with research.

“I’ve worked on cancer before most of the people who are working on it now were even born,” she laughs. “I worked on it again this year, but I didn’t get to as many people this year as I have in the past.”

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Lauretta Borgman was six months old when her parents, Roy and Ethel Works, moved to a farm on Allensville Road. Her father was a farmer, but was ill with asthma much of Lauretta’s childhood. The couple had a son who died at birth, and when Lauretta was born on September 18th, 1917, the family began to settle into farm life in Switzerland County.

Roy Works’ asthma got worse, however, and Lauretta says that when she was three years old, the family went to Colorado one winter in an attempt to ease her dad’s suffering.

“We came home, but daddy kept getting worse, so when I was about eight we sold everything, our horses and all of our belongings, and we went back to Colorado expecting to stay. The weather there didn’t do him any good that time, so we came back to Allensville.”

Roy Works passed away when Lauretta was 11 years old, and Ethel Works and her daughter worked hard to keep the farm operation running.

While Lauretta was at Vevay High School, one of her classmates had a brother who lived near Fairview. Ralph Baatz began to call on Lauretta, and soon the two had fallen deeply in love.

In April of 1935 - a month before Lauretta graduated from Vevay High School – the two were married.

“Ralph was living at our house at the time,” Lauretta remembers. “His sister had accidentally set fire to the house and he didn’t have anything except the clothes on his back. Mom needed help with the chores, so he did work for his room and board. When we got marred we had to keep it a secret until after I graduated, because at that time you didn’t dare tell anyone that you were married, because they would have kicked you out of school. I was too near graduating to do that.”

The newlyweds stayed on the farm at Allensville and helped run the operation, and when Ethel Works remarried around Thanksgiving of 1935, she moved to Markland Pike with her new husband while Lauretta and Ralph remained in Allensville.

Ralph Baatz also worked on the highway department, and at that time the state was building State Road 250, so he worked close to home.

When Ralph Baatz went off to serve his country during World War II, Lauretta went to work.

“I milked the cows and fed the chickens and ran the tractor,” she says proudly. “Not very many others around had a tractor back then, so I traded work with other farmers who didn’t have a tractor. I also took the tractor and the hay baler and traded out baling, too.”

Ralph Baatz returned home following the war and the couple again began to run their farm – but it wouldn’t be long before more changes would take place.

Lauretta Borgman ponders that day as if it was yesterday. It was May of 1954, and her husband was very ill. It was a Thursday, so the doctor’s offices in the county were closed down, and finally she summoned an ambulance to take Ralph to the hospital.

He had suffered a massive heart attack, and passed away in the same month, at the same age, as her father. It was again time for Lauretta Borgman to make it on her own.

Lauretta was again handling her farming operation when one day she heard a knock on her front door. Standing there was Clyde Borgman, a man from the Napoleon area who made his living buying and selling cattle.

“Someone had sent him over to my house to see about some cattle,” Lauretta Borgman remembers. “You ask where I met Clyde – and it was right at my front door.”

The two soon became a couple, and on Valentine’s Day of 1957, they were married – and he moved onto the farm near Allensville.

The couple would have nearly 40 happy years together before Clyde passed away in February of 1996.

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So what’s the secret to being so active at age 90?

Lauretta Borgman laughs at the notion that she’s harboring a secret; but says that being a vegetarian – a practice she’s followed for 80 years – may have something to do with it.

“People really looked at me funny when I was a kid and I didn’t eat meat and so on,” Lauretta Borgman remembers. “They didn’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if being a vegetarian has anything to do with it or not, but I don’t eat meat, fowl, or fish.”

She says that she doesn’t raise a garden and flowers like she used to ( “That day’s passed”), but she does get out in her yard for some work, and feels that staying busy in that way has also helped her stay so active.

“I work in my yard and I get a lot done,” Lauretta Borgman says proudly. “I can bend over double for two hours and weed – not many people can do that.”