FAIRBORN — The city of Fairborn has a long and rich history with its residents, one that Evelyn Fueger has gotten to experience since the very beginning.
Fueger, who turns 100 today, has lived in what is now Fairborn since 1947 — before the city was officially founded in 1950 by combining Fairfield and Osborn. She moved to Fairborn at the influence of her sister and worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a nurse where she met her husband, Max Fueger.
The two things Fueger pointed to as a reason to stay in Fairborn as long as she did were working at the base (and her husband working at the base), and the strong relationships she made at her church. She joined the First Presbyterian Church on Highview in 1953 because it was “the only Presbyterian church” around and has stayed ever since.
Since moving into a senior living facility and being unable to go to church regularly, the people of First Presbyterian have visited her monthly to go over the sermons and pass along messages to the church members. It’s a relationship Fueger described as close to family.
In 1965, Max and Evelyn decided to build their own home in the area, a home that’s still there today and “a beautiful house,” according to Leslie Greendyke, one of Fueger’s daughters.
“They picked out the exact spot where they wanted it,” said Greendyke. “You walk in that house and it’s just full of memories.”
Leslie is one of three children, along with Jeff Fueger and Susan Lowe. All three, as well as son-in-law Ray Lowe, take turns helping out and visiting their mother.
“It’s kind of how my mother and sister took care of each other,” said Susan, the oldest daughter. “It’s just what we do, and it keeps us in touch with her.”
Lowe makes the hour drive from her home in Columbus twice per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while her husband comes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Greendyke comes every weekend.
“It makes me feel important,” said Fueger of her family member prioritizing their visitation.
Looking back on her life and rich memories in Fairborn, one of the most prominent is from April 3, 1974, when the Xenia tornado shook the residents of Greene County to their core.
By this time, Fueger was working part-time at Greene Memorial in Xenia, spending most of her time raising her children. Luckily, she kept her nursing license current and helped out with things like the Fairborn Polio Vaccine Campaign in the 1960s. So when the tornado hit, Fueger was one of the first to be called to aid the injured.
Susan said she remembers her mother being one of the only people allowed into the area that was destroyed, as most were kept away while the damage was assessed.
“They didn’t have anything,” said Fueger. “It was an awakening.”
Fueger said the experience made her “realize how important life is,” and it was a sobering time for the whole community. Even now, 50 years later, she said she has always had the fear in the back of her mind that another tornado could hit, wiping away a rich community she helped rebuild.
As a nurse, Fueger learned a lot about caring for others, and she learned to apply her skills in all areas of her life.
Aside from emergencies like the Polio vaccine and the tornado, Susan said her mother would be the neighborhood caretaker in their first home, making sure her friends and neighbors were healthy and taken care of when she could.
“Even now she’ll check the bottles of pills they give her and see what it is,” Leslie joked.
For Fueger, she felt a responsibility to her neighbors simply because she knew how to care for them.
“I was there and I was able,” she said, and that was enough of a reason to help.
Even now, at 100 years old, Fueger is connecting with people she knew or almost knew from her 77 years in Fairborn. One example is a new friend Fueger made at Our Home — Rita, who’s husband played on the same basketball team as Max.
“There’s little connections that eventually show up, and that’s the Fairborn that she remembers,” said Susan. “A place like this, it ends up that you know somebody. Even at her age, there’s someone here that you might know because of the area.”
In preparation of her 100th birthday, Fueger’s daughters said they planned a great get-together in Greene County, where the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will get the chance to experience the city Fueger knows so well. One important stop for the families is Young’s Jersey Dairy, which is the only place Fueger can get her favorite ice cream flavor, black walnut.
As her family and friends celebrate her birthday and experience where she spent most of her life, Fueger said she’s fulfilled with the work she’s done and people she’s met while in Fairborn.
“I just think Fairborn is a wonderful place to live,” she said.
Contact Ethan Charles at 937-502-4532.