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Two nonagenarians enjoy meeting for weekly card game

By Katherine Wartell

Nearly every week for approximately seven years, Beulah McPhail and Wanetta Smith have played cards together at the Riley County Seniors Service Center.

Both women live in Manhattan and drive to the center from their homes every Tuesday afternoon to play cards for a couple of hours.

McPhail is 97 years old; Smith is 96. On Friday, Smith will turn 97.

This Tuesday is the last time she will drive to the center on her own because she has decided not to renew her driver’s license.

Smith lives in her long-time Manhattan home even now, where as recently as last summer she did her own yard work, including raking the leaves from her lawn.

McPhail used to live in her own home, until, she said, Walmart bought the trailer court where she lived, so she moved into a church residence closer to the center of town.

At one point, when she was feeling poorly, McPhail said she put her car up for sale. She changed her mind when she began feeling better, telling herself “No, I’m not going to quit driving yet.”

Nowadays, though, she limits her driving to the seniors center, the bank and the grocery store.

Both women met at the seniors center and became friends through their card-playing. They did not know each other prior, though both have lived in the area for years. A common background in farming cemented their friendship.

Smith said she began her life on a farm south of Belvue in 1917. In her adult years, she was a farmer’s wife, she said, with four children, now in their 60s and 70s.

Smith moved to Manhattan about 40 years ago. Her husband has since died.

McPhail was also born in a small town, Council Grove, in 1916. She met her husband, Glen, while growing up there, and McPhail said they lived as farmers before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, in the ‘60s.

“We were young then,” she said. “We just wanted to scout around.”

There, she said, she took up carpentry and painting.

McPhail and Glen had a daughter, Corliss, but McPhail said she died in 1979, after her body couldn’t handle being placed on a dialysis machine.

McPhail moved to Manhattan about a decade after the move to Arizona because she thought it would be a better place to find a job.

She worked at Walmart as a manager in the health and beauty department for another 12 years before retiring.

Upon retirement, McPhail traveled off and on for years with a friend who hadn’t retired yet. “She still worked, and I’d tell her when and where we were going to go,” she said.

The friends traveled, mostly on tour buses and trains, to every state in the country but Washington and West Virginia. She said Hawaii was her favorite.

While traveling, McPhail said, they were an outgoing pair who often approached single travelers to chat them up.

“Even when nobody wanted to talk to us, we made friends,” she said. “After they got through with us, they’d talk.”

She traveled for about 12 years, and after that, she said, she didn’t take too well to retirement and began volunteering.

McPhail volunteered at the seniors center, delivering mail and working at the reception desk.

Now, to occupy her time on other days of the week, McPhail said she visits with other girl-friends, going with them on shopping trips and out to eat.

Smith said she likes to stay at home, working on puzzles and reading.

Though the women aren’t as mobile as they used to be, they have no plans to stop playing cards every Tuesday afternoon.

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