VANDUSER, MO (KFVS) - Long before some Vanduser residents have finished their first cup of coffee, Henrietta Foster has already been by.
The 87 year old favors a walk about town first thing in the morning, with faithful dog Barney at her side. She doesn't walk for time or for mileage, she walks for company. Henrietta stops at the post office or Gravitt's Store to visit.
"I like to go around and aggravate people," laughs Henrietta.
No one seems to mind the aggravation. After all, Henrietta has lived around here for years and years. She's known mostly for two things: her walking, and the hash brown casserole she fixes every week for the community meal at the Family Life Center in town.
"Everybody likes it," says the cook.
Before we get too deep in the now, let's walk back 80 years to when Henrietta was a young girl growing up in Blodgett. She and her four siblings were raised only by their mother. Their father Henry, who she is named after, walked out of them.
"He took off and we didn't see him for years and years," remembers Henrietta.
Henrietta herself ran off at age 18 and married Doyle Foster. Her mother wasn't happy. Not only was Doyle seven years older but, "he had been married before," adds Henrietta.
Soon their family grew with the addition of two boys, Randy and David. Doyle worked as a truck driver and a farmer. One day after working in the fields he came into the house and collapsed on the living room floor.
"He dropped dead of a heart attack. There was nothing anyone could do," Henrietta says, tightening her lips together, "I knew he had a bad heart. He smoked. I tried to get him to quit but he didn't"
Doyle was gone and the boys were grown. Henrietta moved out of their country home and eventually settled here. In a small house at the end of a small street in the very small town of Vanduser.
"I like it here. Everyone is nice," Henrietta remarks.
When she's not hoofing it, you'll find her in a comfortable chair in her living room watching her favorite TV shows. Her collection of angels, and cat Shoestring, watching over her.
Ask to see pictures of her husband, her boys, her life and she almost reluctantly gets this box out of a small closet. While dates can escape a mind that's been working for 87 years, sorrow cannot. She lost her son, David, to cancer a few years ago and there's still the pain from losing Doyle.
"When you lose your husband you lose your companionship. And so I go alone," Henrietta says with a wry smile.
To some degree it's loneliness or rather the need to escape it, that gets Henrietta out of her chair, into her walking shoes and out the door.
Henrietta insists, "I'm not going to sit in this house."
She says she is thankful for her long life, saying she never smoked, drank or gambled. She still drives, and says she never goes above the speed limit.
On the streets of a town that looks pretty lonely itself, Henrietta fills the void Doyle left. Companionship is around every corner, closer with every step. It's not easy getting older.
"I'd like to stay younger but we all get old, " Henrietta says wistfully.
But life, as Henrietta has learned, is what you make it. You can sit in your house and watch it pass you by or you can lace up your sneakers and go find it.
Next we head to Johnson County, Illinois for Everybody in the Heartland Has a Story.