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Local woman turns 100

David Mirhadi

She’s shared an audience with the Rev. Billy Graham, danced in the days when it got her whupped, and credits the Lord with keeping her 100 years young.

These days, Lola Mae Baetz keeps a much lower profile at the Sierra View Manor retirement center, preferring to spend the autumn of her days reflecting on her years as a country preacher’s daughter, wife and mother.

“I’m just having another birthday,” she said Monday in her room at the center as friends came by with congratulations. “It doesn’t seem strange to me at all.”

The pride of Merle Springs, Texas, has lived so long, washboards were actually used for laundry and buggies hadn’t become museum pieces yet.

She was the oldest, and is the last, of four brothers and a sister in her family. Baetz didn’t step into her first car until she was 14.

“We loved it,” she said.

Though she no longer plays the piano or sings, music has always been an important part of her family’s life. One of her brothers, Stuart Hamblen, became an accomplished singer-songwriter, penning tunes for jazz great Rosemary Clooney and pieces for Graham, whom Baetz considers a friend to this day.

“He’s as ordinary as they come,” Baetz said. “Everybody loved him … He’s brought a lot of people to the Lord.”

Graham was a guest at Hamblen’s funeral, she said.

Of course, Lola Mae loved to dance. So much so that her father admonished her often for dancing anywhere, often with red slippers.

“My father thought it was sinful,” Baetz said of her Methodist father. “I went to a dance once, and my father found out about it. I had to hide,” she said, adding that her father “was a wonderful man.”

“Whatever the young kids were doing, I did,” she said, not knowing her father frowned on such things. “I just flowed with the crowd.”

Baetz moved to Grass Valley several years ago and visits with her only son, Roy, often.

They’re planning a party today at Sierra View Manor, and the First Baptist Church is rolling out the red carpet Sunday, all for someone who sometimes finds it hard to understand all the fuss.

“I’m thankful for all the things we have today,” said Baetz. “The Lord’s been good to me.”

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