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Local woman celebrates 90th birthday, still active in Downers Grove community

Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 3:05 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:53 p.m. CST
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(Lorae Mundt - msleditorial@shawmedia.com)
Bolingbrook resident Mary Lou Shearhod of Bolingbrook is former president of the Good Sam Women's Auxiliary and a longtime volunteer there and in the Downers Grove Women's Club. She turns 90 on April 29.

DOWNERS GROVE – She’s traded golf and bowling for pinochle and dominos, but at almost 90 years old, if Mary Lou Shearhod’s has a secret for vitality and longevity, she insists she’s not keeping it from us.

“I have no idea,” she said. “When my mother came from Europe and was raised on the farm, I look back, growing up we ate the proper way. She was used to giving us vegetables and meat and soup and stuff. I think I ate the right way. Yeah, I like a little desert here and there.”

If it’s not diet, it might be her good humor, as evidenced by her book shelf.

“I [have] a book called ‘How Not to Act Like a Little Old Lady,’ ” she said with a laugh near the end of the interview Thursday. “It said ‘don’t talk too much.’ But that’s hard.”

She lives unassisted in the seven-bedroom Bolingbrook home she bought with her late husband in 1976. This month, she took her annual driving test. She passed, as she always does, but with a small perk – you don’t have to pay the test fee once you join the nonagenarian club.

The Bolingbrook resident has been a fixture in Downers Grove philanthropy for years, notably as past president of the Advocate Good Samaritan Auxiliary, and she remains active at the First Presbyterian Church of DuPage, among other organizations.

She will celebrate her 90th birthday May 3 at the First Presbyterian Church of DuPage, 180 N. Weber Road, Bolingbrook. Friends of Shearhod’s who would like to attend should RSVP with Jerry Hughes at 773-586-6193.

Bolingbrook also bestowed an honor on Shearhod this month, with the mayor declaring her actual birthday, April 29, 2014, as Mary Lou Shearhod Day in an official proclamation.

Shearhod was born in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on April 29, 1924, and she explains the community was a much different place.

“It was old, but there was no crime,” Shearhod said. “(My friend and I) lived a mile apart. I’d walk home from her place at 10 o’clock at night and never be afraid.”

Eventually Shearhod and her husband Rolland relocated to a bungalow in Beverly, and then Bolingbrook in 1976.

When Rolland, a non-smoker, succumbed to lung cancer in a matter of months in 1985, she took early retirement from Johnson and Johnson. The last 29 years have been filled with travel both near and far – she’s been to every state, in addition to trips to Russia, China, Japan, among other countries – and volunteer work throughout the Downers Grove area.

In Downers Grove, she served as president of the Downers Grove Women’s Club in 1999 and again in 2008. She was also president of the Advocate Good Samaritan Auxiliary in 1990, and then turned around its Gingham Tree Resale Shop in 1991, more than doubling its sales, she said.

Driver’s license intact, vision and hearing passing muster, Shearhod gets around town to church events and volunteer activities in her Chevrolet Impala.

“Everybody treats me very nicely, in fact I didn’t catch on,” she said. “I just thought they were friendly. I’m 90 and they think they have to take care of me. I have everybody saying ‘I’ll pick you up.’”

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