By Mary Pannabecker Steiner
Did you live in Bluffton all of your life? When did you graduate from BHS? Did you go to Bluffton college or somewhere else? Did you and your sister go to the same place or deliberately separate at that point?
I was born in Bluffton, 13 minutes after my twin sister, Nancy, to parents,Don and Katheryne, who were both twins. I lived on South Lawn Ave. until my parents built a house on Kibler St. when I was in college. I graduated from
BHS in 1960 and plan on attending my 50 year reunion next summer. Yikes!!!
It was a no brainer that Nancy and I would make the 15 minute commute from our house to the Bluffton University campus for our college education. My mother, class of 1932, and my two aunts were also graduates of BU. My
Mennonite heritage is still an important part of my life. Grew up in the First Mennonite Church which my grandfather, A.E. Lugibill, helped build. I still have my Mennonite History book I took in college.
Fill me in a bit on what you've done/where you've lived, since leaving Bluffton. I know you live in Texas, but have you always lived there?
I met my husband, Denny, the first week of our freshman year at BU and have been together since. His career with Marathon Oil Company started in Findlay, has taken us to Robinson, Illinois, back to Findlay then to London,England, and Aberdeen, Scotland to build and install MOC's first North Sea platform. From there he was transferred to Houston where we have lived ever since.
I graduated from BU with an Elementary Education major and a music minor. I took graduate work at BGSU to get my Special Education Certification. I have taught children with special needs all of my teaching career in Ohio,
Illinois and Texas. I still do private tutoring in my home.
The American schools overseas had no special educaiton services so when we lived in Aberdeen I taught a nine year old boy from Louisiana, who had learning disabilities. I taught him all of his academic subjects plus how to play the piano and kept him informed on the sporting activities in the USA. That was a unique and very self rewarding situation.
What are some of your childhood memories of growing up in Bluffton? Teachers, friends, sports and other extra-curricular activities? Funny stories? Did you ever have your mom as a teacher? Were/are you also a musician?
I have many fond memories of growing up in a small safe community. As a young gal I was a tomboy and was always playing baseball, kickball or shooting baskets somewhere in the neighborhood. I remember the wonderful freedom to ride my bike down alleys, play tennis and swimming in the Buckeye. We would swing out on big ropes from the trees out into the Buckeye. We never got caught. In winter we would spend hours ice skating on the Riley and would skate on the creek out into the country to Emmert's pond. When it was time to go home from play mom would blow her referee
whistle and we could hear it all over the neighborhood. We spent all day outside playing because we did not have all of the "distractions" the kids nowadays have.
Unfortunately the only sport offered for girls was basketball which I participated in both at BHS and BU.
My mother was my PE teacher when I was in junior high. When I was in college I did my music student teaching under the supervision of my mother at the Bluffton Elementary school. Those were good experiences.
I attended the big brick four story elementary school which was where the current school is now. Kindergarten was not offered in the public schools so our parents sent us to Mrs. Howe's private kindergarten. I had many wonderful teachers, Mrs. Murray, Miss Hilty, had Clarence Kooker for 4th and 5th and Bob Stratton. We would walk home for lunch most of the time. How many kids do that today?
With a mother who was a music teacher, I was blessed to have been given many musical opportunities growing up and I still love music. I started taking piano lessons from Pearl Mann, my Dad's cousin. I took clarinet and viola
lessons and played in the high school band and orchestra, sang in the choir and later at the college. Nancy played violin and French horn and brother Don played oboe. Someone was always practicing in several rooms of the house. When Nancy and I were in high school we would walk down to the college and play in their orchestra and we played our viola and violin in the Messiah orchestra. We played in the Lima Symphony as their youngest members and we, along with Ann and Jean Stauffer would ride to practice with Jim Szabo.
I have sung in church choirs wherever we have lived. I currently sing in our choir ( 75 members strong) at Lakewood United Methodist Church, where Denny and I are actively involved.
What was it like growing up as a twin, in a small town? Are you two identical -- I know I've seen you together, and remember similarities but not mirror images. How are you and Nancy similar? Different?
It was fun growing up as a twin. We always had someone to play with. Nancy and I are not identical but people still get us mixed up. There were several sets of twins just a few years younger, the Basinger and Althaus twins and then the Jordan triplets -- unique for a small town. We dressed alike until were in 6th grade when we discovered we had more clothes to share if we didn't dress alike. Some similarities are we both love to play golf and sing. We both taught children with special needs all of our teaching
careers. We are also very involved with our grandchildren and their activities. We both have easygoing personalities.
Differences- That is hard to say. Since we are not identical twins, medically, we are no different than sisters -- just born 13 minutes apart. We have also lived totally different lifestyles, she being a home town gal and
Denny's job has taken us out of the country and now to a large city with many different experiences.
Did your dad ever cut your hair?
My dad, who barbered for 48 years, always cut my hair until I was married and moved to Findlay. As youngsters we would walk downtown to just hang out for awhile in his barbershop so we could be with him and hope he would take us across the street for a sandwich at Risser's Restaurant then down to Hankish~Ac^a'not^a"cs ice cream parlor to climb upon those high stools for some ice cream.
You return for regular visits to your mom and I know you were here recently for her birthday. What kind of changes do you notice in Bluffton? How are things "always the same"? Do you miss certain things that are gone from your childhood years?
I have not really noticed many changes in Bluffton other than fast food restaurants, new houses, the attractive Main Street and of course the removal of the stop light at College Ave. and Main. Also now swimming in a pool instead of in the Buckeye with the fish. I am still trying to make the transition from the Bluffton College I graduated from to Bluffton University.
Things that are always the same are the college, friendly people. I always see several people I know when I go downtown, and the congregational singing of hymns a capella at First Mennonite, which truly blesses me.
Some things I miss from my childhood years are swimming in the Buckeye, riding bikes to friends~Ac^a'not^a"c houses, ice skating on the creek, having snowball fights with the neighbors -- Bakers, Littles, Travises, Tripletts, and Stauffers. Every Christmas our neighbors, Ray and Mary Hilty, who had no
children, would have a big party for all of neighborhoods kids. What fun.
It seems that Margaret (Baker) and Bill Mann lived near you in Texas, or at least as near as one can be in a large city. Do I remember that right? Do you know other Bluffton natives living near you?
Actually we live 25 miles northwest of downtown Houston in the Lakewood Forest subdivision. Here we measure distances by drive time instead of miles as you want to avoid rush hour. Margaret (Baker) and Bill Mann live in the Woodlands, just 25 min. north of us. Pam Triplett Hansel lived there too, but just recently retired and moved to Panama. Jim Emmert and Lee Cookson also live here.
Tell me about your family -- husband, children, grandchildren.
My husband, Denny, is a 1960 Tiffin Columbian graduate. We met the first week at BU. It seems his roommate thought he needed to meet one of the twins. It didn't take me long to convince him I was the one.
We are blessed with two daughters who both graduated high school, from the American School of Aberdeen, Scotland. Ann met her husband Rex McLain at Muskingum College. She is a third grade teacher and Rex works for HP. They have two children, Shannon, a 17 year old senior, who has excelled at track and soccer since she was 7. She has accepted a soccer scholarship and will play and attend Louisiana State University. Chase is 13 and plays soccer and does " boy things".
Jill met her husband David Jones, at the American School in Aberdeen. They both graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. David works for Siemans and Jill, after 10 years at Shell Oil Co. is a busy domestic engineer. They have two boys, 10 year old Ian and 8
year old Elliott. They both swim year round on a club team, Fleet.
We enjoy being actively involved grandparents and have followed their sporting events around the country.
I assume you're retired; how do you spend your days? Your Facebook profile photo is of you near the ocean. Were you on a cruise?
I am retired after teaching elementary children with special needs for 35 years. My days are spent tutoring, going to the fitness center three times a week, golfing, reading, listening to classical music, computer time, meeting with friends for lunch, and church activities. We have collected antique White Ironstone China with the Copper Luster Tealeaf pattern for 40 years. We are actively involved in the club, which I am a member of the Board of
Directors now. We enjoy traveling -- especially cruises.
My Facebook picture was taken last summer when we took our grandson Chase on a cruise for his 13th birthday. Denny and I started a tradition that when our grandchildren turn teenagers we take them on a trip. When Shannon turned 13
we took her to the UK to show her where we lived and where her mom and aunt went to school. We visited London and then took the train to Aberdeen. Since Chase is such a picky eater we thought a cruise was the perfect trip. We went to the Caribbean and he ate pizza at midnight and ice cream for
How did you get started on Facebook? Has that allowed you to reconnect with any old friends?
How did I get on Facebook? Granddaughter Shannon thought I should be on. It is a very effective communication tool next to EM. I did connect up with a college classmate originally from Pandora who I had not seen or talked to
Houston is a large city; Bluffton is a small town. Do you see any similarities between the two?
I see very few similarities because of the size, Houston and suburbs, 4 million and Bluffton, 4,000. Other than libraries, churches, fast food, typical things, not really.
Have you ever wanted to move back Bluffton? Do you think that's a possibility in your future?
Not really. We got rid of our snow shovel when we moved to Houston although some parts south of us got 4" last week. Not us. Our daughters and families are just 20 minutes away so this is where we want to be with them. Besides we play golf year around here.
What kinds of goals do you have for the next 10 years?
Thinking about my goals? I plan on continuing to stay physically fit through exercise and proper nutrition. Also through preventative medicine and meeting all of my physical needs so I can live as long as my mother who
just turned 99. I will keep our Lord my main focus and support in my life. Continue to be available when my family needs me.Travel will also be a part of our future. And of course try to lower my golf handicap.