Edith Krause (left), Buzz Café owner Laura Maychruk, and Edith’s son met for coffee and a centennial interview at the café where Edith had breakfast every Thursday for many years. One of her secrets to a long life? “Lots of coffee.” | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

According to Edith Kause, the keys to a good life are staying busy and trying to make others happy. She should know – she will turn 100 years old on Aug. 1, after a long and rewarding life. 

“The old gray horse may not be what she used to be — but you only live once, so enjoy it. I’ve been very fortunate and have enjoyed everything I’ve done. And I especially enjoy coffee,” Edith said during a conversation at the Buzz Café, 905 S. Lombard Ave., one of her favorite Oak Park haunts. 

Edith was born on a farm in Pound, a small town in northeast Wisconsin with less than 200 residents in the early decades of the 20th century. The youngest of four children of Swedish immigrants, she and her siblings stayed busy milking cows and doing other chores. With no electricity, they carried lanterns to the barn in the wee hours of the morning. They also had no phone.

Edith Kause, 99, at Buzz Cafe on Lombard Avenue in Oak Park. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

“I have a phone now, a flip phone with a camera that my son gave me. I’m still trying to figure it out,” she said.

Edith attended one year of high school and then lit out for California to find work, taking a train with a friend and sleeping in the ladies restroom. She got a job in the aircraft industry, working on Boeing B-17s, which dropped more bombs than any other aircraft during World War 2, and Lockheed P-38s. She was one of the real Rosie the Riveters, according to her son, Henry. Laid off after the war, she found a job as a waitress at a bus stop in Barstow, CA where she once waited on Clark Gable — who, according to Edith, was just as handsome as in the picture shows and nice as well. 

Edith eventually returned to the Midwest and stayed with a cousin in Rockford before making her way to Chicago. She met her husband at church and they first lived with his parents before moving to Oak Park and buying a home on South Taylor Avenue, where they raised four children. The family lived through the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway, which she thought was an exciting development for Chicago.

“We were on the bubble — just close enough to see it being built, without losing our home. I felt bad for the folks who lost their homes. We have a yew bush in our front yard that came from one of the demolished homes,” she said. 

An ardent gardener, Edith was active for many years with the Oak Park Conservatory, where she met Josephine Bellalta. The two enjoyed breakfast — an egg sandwich, hash browns and lots of coffee — at the Buzz Café every Thursday morning for many years, until Josephine moved to Michigan two years ago. Josephine now orders Edith’s breakfast every Thursday and has it delivered to her home — and then the two talk on the phone while they eat. Josephine admits that Edith has become a surrogate mother since her own mother died several years ago. 

“Edith is a strong, happy and pragmatic person. She is interesting and a real straight shooter. I like her ethics and belief system. She is politically conservative — but open-minded. I convinced her not to vote for Trump,” Josephine said. 

In addition to the Oak Park Conservatory, Edith taught Bible lessons to young people at Calvary Memorial Church on Wednesday evenings until a few years ago. The church is hosting a 100th birthday party for her in early July. 

Since breaking her hip four years ago, Edith has started to slow down a bit — although she insists that she still walks up the 14 stairs to her bedroom every night without help. She enjoys going to the grocery with her son, Henry, and uses the cart handle to steady herself. She also enjoys cooking and takes pride in cutting up vegetables.

“I like watching Jeopardy because I’m trying to improve myself and learn something new every day. There is still a lot I have to figure out,” she said. 

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