Family, friends and fellow members of the First United Methodist Church in Chester gathered in the church fellowship hall on Oct. 10 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Mary Ann Jeffreys.
A resident of Chester since the 1970s, Jeffreys has resided at The Manor At Craig Farms assisted living facility for approximately three years. Her small but homey apartment is beautifully decorated with her favorite things.
Though it was a difficult decision to move from the log cabin in the woods that she and her husband had built in 1978, she did so with the same strength and resolve that is her trademark.
Jeffreys enjoys her life at The Manor, spending her days reading, making friends easily and participating in activities. On a recent afternoon visiting with her at The Manor, it was obvious that all the residents know her as they warmly greet her by name.
Mary Ann Kennedy was born at the home of her parents on Sidney Street in St. Louis on Oct. 14, 1921. She grew up in St. Louis, one of two children. As a young adult she attended Rubicam Business College in St. Louis. During World War II she applied for a civilian job with the U.S. Navy and was hired. She first worked in Gasconade, Missouri and subsequently was transferred to a naval facility in Tampa, Florida, where she was in charge of personnel.
At the end of the war, while working for a construction company in Tampa, she heard from a Naval captain she had previously worked for, asking her to relocate to Washington D.C. for a job. Of course, she went! She had worked 15 years as a civil service employee. Now in D.C., her job was directing the making of training films for the military.
While in D.C. Mary Ann attended the American University, graduating with a B.A. in Communication. While directing training films, a gentleman named Bill Christian was her photographer. He introduced her to a sailor friend of his named Robert Jeffreys. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Shortly after their meeting one another in 1958, he was assigned to duty on a Naval ship in Hawaii. They had a whirlwind long distance courtship and were married in a downtown D.C. church on April 25, 1959. The couple made their first home in Hawaii where their son was later born. He was named Bill Christian after the person who had introduced them.
After 21 years in the U.S. Navy, Robert "Jeff" Jeffreys retired. The couple and their son returned to the Midwest, settling in St. Louis. Mr. Jeffreys worked briefly for the U.S. Postal Service. Before long he accepted a position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working first at Alton and then at Granite City.
In 1972 he applied for the position of Lock Master at the Kaskaskia Lock and Dam near Chester. He got the job and the family relocated to Chester.
It was important to the Jeffreys that they find and establish connections to a church in Chester, and they found a church home with the Methodists. Mary Ann said they fell in love with the church family, the architecture of the building and the beautiful music. They became dedicated and active members. Mary Ann was hired as church secretary almost immediately, a position she held for many years.
Within the church she was known for her outstanding secretarial skills and for ability to "get things done." She was considered by members to be nearly irreplaceable. When she retired from that position, she took on various volunteer positions within the church. In addition, she was active in the activities of Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, serving as chairman of the local Red Cross blood drives for nine years.
Her son and daughter-in-law, Chris and Patty Jeffreys, live in Lebanon, Illinois. Mary Ann also has two grandchildren and several step-grandchildren.
Robert "Jeff" Jeffreys passed away in December 2004. Mary Ann and her sailor, during their time together, had a fascinating life, living coast to coast, sharing many exciting experiences and adventures. She remembers it all. At the age of 100, she loves to recount her stories of those years.
She loves to laugh and she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has some hearing issues, but it doesn't slow down a great conversation.
When asked how she felt about being 100, Ann said, "I don't feel any different. But it is kind of amazing to think about."
True to form, Mary Ann Jeffreys is still finding life amazing at 100!