Arcadia woman enjoys wagon ride as special birthday present

ARCADIA —  It is understandable if Arcadia resident Barbara Blahut doesn’t remember the first rides she took around the village in a horse drawn carriage with her family when she was only a year old.

Barbara Blahut (second from right) celebrated her 105th birthday on Saturday by taking a ride around Arcadia with family and friends in a horse drawn wagon. When she was a small girl she used to go places with her parents and grandparents before they had cars in carriages pulled by horses.

Barbara Blahut (second from right) celebrated her 105th birthday on Saturday by taking a ride around Arcadia with family and friends in a horse drawn wagon. When she was a small girl she used to go places with her parents and grandparents before they had cars in carriages pulled by horses.

However, what makes those horse rides unique is they took place 104 years ago in 1914. On Saturday afternoon with a brisk wind throwing a real chill in the air, Blahut climbed up — using her own strength — into the back of Brent Brophy’s wagon pulled by two large Belgian Draft Horses recreating those rides to celebrate her 105th birthday.

Rain and snowflakes may have been swirling under that stiff wind, but surrounded by family members in the wagon, Blahut took the short ride under the protection of an umbrella.

It was something that put a big smile on Blahut’s face when she returned to the warmer confines of the Arcadia Ice House Ice Cream Shoppe following the short ride. It was there where she reflected on the ride while enjoying some ice cream with family and friends.

“I never thought I would be riding in a wagon on my 105th birthday, but I used to do it when I was young with my grandmother who used to take me to church that way in what they called a salty,” said Blahut.

Blahut’s daughter, Jeanne Sitter, helped to set things up for the birthday ride and the 84-year-old showed she has the the same spirit as her mother by climbing into the wagon for the ride as well. Sitter said that for years she always tries to do something unique for her mother on her birthday, but added with a smile and laugh that it is beginning to get challenging.

Barbara Blahut is still very active for being 105 years old and carries a great sense of humor which was evident in her talks with family and friends who attended her birthday celebration on Saturday.

Barbara Blahut is still very active for being 105 years old and carries a great sense of humor which was evident in her talks with family and friends who attended her birthday celebration on Saturday.

“I always try to do something different, but at 105 you run out of ideas,” said Sitter. “Last year we took her to the Dempsey House in Manistee where they put on a beautiful tea. Mom said that was the birthday to end all birthdays, well she put another year on and I had to come up with another idea. I knew Brent was starting up this carriage business in Arcadia and I thought why not.”

Many of her much younger relatives looked at the swirling rain and snowflakes and didn’t think Blahut would want to take a ride under those conditions, but she surprised them all. Donning a plastic rain cover for head, big gloves and furry jacket, Blahut didn’t even hesitate when she heard about the gift. In fact, she headed right for the door with her walker where the wagon was waiting.

“The weather is terrible out there and I am freezing, but it was fun,”  Blahut said with a laugh as she warmed up after the ride. “I wish it had been nicer to go for a more of a ride, as the horses were beautiful and the man who has them is real nice.”

Sitter said she never doubted her mother’s tenacity and desire to take the ride. She said over the years it has been part of her character to be a person always on the go.

“I took her shopping last Christmas in Manistee and she did as many stores as possible,” said Sitter. “And in snow she pushed that walker and our last stop was at Wahr Hardware. They always have that beautiful Christmas display and that was the last thing we did that day; it is always so nice and we can’t miss it. We

Everyone wanted their picture taken with the birthday girl on her 105th birthday Saturday. The celebration for Barbara Blahut was held at the Arcadia Ice House Ice Cream Shoppe.

Everyone wanted their picture taken with the birthday girl on her 105th birthday Saturday. The celebration for Barbara Blahut was held at the Arcadia Ice House Ice Cream Shoppe.

even stopped and had lunch that day. She is getting a little fragile, but thank goodness her mind is still good.”

That was more than evident as Blahut conversed and hugged family members and friends who were wishing her a happy birthday on Saturday. She called all of them by name and spoke to them about a variety of topics with an energy of someone 25 years younger than 105 years of age.

Blahut and her husband, Michael had three children Jeanne, Gary and Karen. She and her husband retired to Arcadia after working at Pontiac Motor in their younger years. She now has five grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and one great-great-granddaughter.

Sitter said the family members enjoy coming to see Blahut and the love shows on both sides when they meet like they did on Saturday. Everyone spent some quality time with Grandma and gave her a hug.

“Mom will be remembered by them,” Sitter said with a smile.

However, even at 105 years old, Blahut still carries a feisty spirit about her and is looking for new challenges in the future. It is the forward thinking spirit that has carried her throughout her life.

With that type of positive attitude, Sitter better start making plans to top a wagon ride next October because the odds are good that Blahut may be taking part in another adventure this time next year. But more importantly she will be loving every moment of it.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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