At 95, Kathleen M. Schaefer of Pleasanton describes herself as a thankful, fortunate woman who doesn’t feel her age.
She was born on March 3, 1926, in Los Angeles, Calif. and turned 95 in March.
Her mother was Kathleen M. Ballard and her father, Charles F. Ballard, was a master carpenter for MGM Studios who did a lot of the finishing work on movie sets. He made some of the steps in the classic “Gone With the Wind.” She had one sibling, Charles J. Ballard.
“He was 10 years older than I was. So we kind of lived in different generations.”
Schaefer recalled the earthquakes of 1933 when she lived in Culver City, Calif. One day at approximately 5 p.m. there was an unbelievable rumble. She watched as their fence shook back and forth. Long Beach was completely demolished. For the duration of living in that house, the family lost three chimneys due to earthquakes.
During World War II, she attended Alexander Hamilton High School when there were blackouts.
“The day after Pearl Harbor, they had a special assembly in the auditorium. Everybody did not go to class.”
The principal gave a speech trying to calm them down and reassured them everything would be alright.
Her high school was a beautiful, three-story school in West Los Angeles, approximately 15 miles from the ocean.
“They boarded all of the windows up with plywood. The only windows that we had were the windows at the end of the hallways,” said Schaefer. “That was our only ventilation for a couple of years. In that time, if you drove at night you had to drive with parking lights because we were so close to the ocean. If there were submarines, they could see the lights.”
After the assembly in the auditorium, many students signed up to go and fight for the U.S.
“Every so often, another face was missing from the class.”
The school had a grand entrance with a staircase in the first floor lobby. On the walls of the staircase they hung a blue flag for each student that left to join the military. Small flags with gold stars were hung for those killed.
She graduated in 1944, when the war was still going on. Anybody within age and physical capability of fighting in the war was drafted into the service.
At age 15, she wanted to help the war effort in some way. A postman came by and told Schaefer he had another sad letter delivered that day.
When Schaefer said she wished she could help, the postman asked her to go by the post office and see if they needed her assistance. She went by the post office and the following week, her mother received a call asking if she wouldn’t mind her daughter working after school, from 4-8:30 p.m. and some weekends.
“It was the best experience of my life,” said Schaefer.
Since her post office employment counted as a class, she got out of school at 12:20 p.m., went home for lunch, did her homework and then went to work at 4 p.m. Her father would come and pick her up later.
There were some interesting items that came through the post office. Schaefer remembered someone in the military sending home drapes that Italian dictator Mussolini had on his balcony. Another serviceman sent home a clock in pieces from Germany.
She worked at the post office for four or five years and had to learn the city scheme, the streets and house numbers.
When she went fulltime, her shift switched to 6 a.m.-4 p.m. She was then moved to the parcel post window and that is when she met the man who would become her husband, Calvin Schaefer, whose family was originally from Fashing. He would send letters to his mother back home, so he would stop by to purchase one air mail stamp for 7 cents.
He had a sister who lived by Kathleen’s house. They also knew each other in high school.
Calvin served in the Army Air Corps in WWII. After the war, he got into the aircraft industry and worked for 40 years with Air Research, later known as Honeywell Corp. Kathleen and Calvin dated and were engaged on Valentine’s Day of 1948. They found a place to live in Calif. and married on Sept. 26, 1948. They had two children, Charles (Chuck) and Maureen.
When her husband retired, they lived in Oregon and Kathleen loved how quaint it was. Her husband passed away after 66 years of marriage.
Schaefer lived in a Twin Creeks facility where they were quarantined from March 10, 2020, to when she left on March 18, 2021.
“I had a nice facility. They were kind and good,” said Schaefer. “They took good care of us, but it was just too much for me.”
In mid-March, Kathleen moved in with her son and daughter-in-law, Chuck and Debbie Schaefer in Pleasanton. Debbie shared that Kathleen likes to sit outside and watch the squirrels and wave at folks driving by. They also like to watch American Movie Clas- sics. They joke about how Chuck’s German shepherd has adopted Kathleen.
Debbie and Kathleen’s husband got along well, which Debbie said was because they were both native Texans.
“I would say, we’re both from Texas. We understand each other and we speak the same language,” Debbie said.
“It’s been a very, very good life and God has blessed me with good health,” said Kathleen. “I feel as good today as I ever have.”
The family is building an addition to the house for her, so she will have her own bathroom, bedroom and living room. Schaefer has also met many of the neighbors.
Her blessed, long life and the many people she has encountered over the years allow her to talk to anyone about any topic.
“She never meets a stranger. She doesn’t shy away from meeting anybody new,” said Debbie on her mother-in-law. “She embraces everybody that she meets, which I think is an extremely admirable quality.”