Hilda Seyfert Had A Centennial Celebration
By Ian Brown
FORT WAYNE — Hilda Lenora Seyfert, born Feb. 22, 1923, is a woman of extraordinary life experience.
She was born in Milford, in the downstairs bedroom of the Dippon farmhouse. Her father, Jesse Dippon, was a farmer who sold all his animals and farm equipment when she was five years old, and the family moved to Goshen.
Jesse kept the farmland and rented it out, and when Hilda was in fourth grade, her family lost everything during The Great Depression, moved back to the farm in Milford and started over. As a young girl, Hilda remembers how life changed between Goshen and the farm in Milford. In Goshen, they had indoor plumbing, but when they moved back to the farm, they used an outhouse.
Hilda attended Milford High School from fourth grade through her high school graduation. She would ride the bus to and from school 2.5 miles every day. Hilda loved school and was the president of her class every year.
She also performed the lead roles in her junior and senior plays, sang in the choir and loved all her teachers. Her principal was Harold Young. Hilda has a special connection to her brother Bud Dippon, who was two years older than she was.
His friend, Darrel Orn, taught her to drive a car on Sundays. Bud, who was always a character, would let her practice and drive his car to the corner and back, and in return, Hilda polished his car and all of his shoes.
Working on the farm, Hilda’s chores included climbing up the metal rungs to the top of the silo, using a pitchfork to loosen the snow — the silo didn’t have a cover — and pitching down the silage. She recalls a ring of farmers would rent a huge threshing machine together to fill all the silos.
However, Hilda remembers her least favorite job was when she had to gather the cows from one pasture to another.
“The older the bull, the meaner he was,” said Hilda, adding that some would even chase her.
Hilda and her friends loved going to dances every Saturday night throughout high school and listening to live bands at the Waco in Wawasee and the big dance hall in Tippecanoe. Sometimes they would go as far as Rochester.
After graduation, Hilda moved to Ft. Wayne and worked at her friend’s uncle’s restaurant, The Hobby House. She and her best friend and classmate, Helene Lantz, shared a room for $10 a week in a huge old home that had been made into a six-bedroom boarding house.
Hilda also worked for G.E. in Ft. Wayne, saved money, and then went to Purdue in Lafayette for three semesters until she ran out of money. She went back to G.E., and they hired her immediately.
Hilda took a man’s job when he was drafted into World War II and was soon promoted to another man’s job when he was drafted. They were paid much lower than the men’s salary. But during the war, she could make $12 a week and $20 more in overtime.
They made small motors for the military, and Hilda clearly remembers Rosie the Riveter on posters created by Westinghouse.
Her sister at some point had a copy of the Saturday Evening Post with Rosie on the cover of the Memorial Day issue in 1943, when Hilda was 20.
“Getting the women out of the kitchen and into the workforce was the most successful advertising campaign in history,” said Hilda.
Hilda left G.E. when her sister, Lila, was in a severe car crash. Lila lost her husband, Harold, in the car crash, and Hilda moved in to care for her.
During this time, her former principal, Mr. Young, called and told her they were looking for a third grade teacher, starting in a week. He had already told them Hilda would do it.
“You can do it, Hilda.” Mr. Young told her.
She was scared to death, but agreed and quit her new job at Penn Switch. Later she went back to Purdue Extension in Michigan City, where she taught for several years.
Hilda met her husband, Paul Seyfert, at a dance while at Purdue. He proposed to her in a letter while aboard a ship off the coast of Japan. They married when he came home on June 7, 1947, at the age of 24.
Paul spent his career at NIPSCO in Hammond as an electrical engineer.
He worked in Michigan City and South Bend and retired as a division manager in Fort Wayne. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 88. Hilda still lives in Fort Wayne in her home in The Hamlets.
As Hilda celebrates her 100th birthday on Feb. 22, her family and friends are planning a special celebration to honor her life and legacy.
Hilda remains an inspiration to all who know her, a shining example of the power of hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude.