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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cassel reaches 104th birthday

Saturday, June 7, 2003


Times Staff Writer

Margretta Raper Cassel, a former owner of The Brazil Times, turned 104 years old Wednesday. Nearly 20 family members and friends came out to help her celebrate the joyous, benchmark occasion. The reminiscing seemed to be enjoyed as much as the cards and gifts.

The Cardonia native, who used to work at the Morgan Grocery Store there, became co-owner of The Brazil Daily Times when she married James Raper in 1923. They also owned Monticello Herald-Journal. After their wedding the Cassel's honeymooned in Mansfield on the river.

"They had a fishing honeymoon," laughed Cassel's niece Sue Vanzo, recalling her aunt's early years. "They loved to fish."

Throughout her active and prolific life, Cassel contributed to her community in many ways. She's been a member of the First Presbyterian Church for nearly 95 years. She attended faithfully, when residing in Brazil, until health problems prohibited her from doing so in the mid 1980s.

She was involved in many benevolent associations. A few of her myriad works included the Press Club of Indiana, Indiana Tuberculosis Association, the Tri Kappa Sorority and the Indiana War Memorial Shrine Board which was in charge of the War Memorial at Indianapolis.

Cassel was the first woman appointed to the Indiana State Fair Board in 1956 by Gov. George Craig. She helped the Clay Community Theater organization purchase the J.C. Penney building.

The busy lady found time to pursue many hobbies as well. She traveled extensively including a trip to Europe. Her home is still decorated with needle work art pieces she created. And her yard used to brighten the whole neighborhood with a continual summer display of flowers she lovingly grew.

But her seemingly story book life was not without tragedy. In the 1930s, before antibiotics were developed, there was a strep throat epidemic. The Draper's only son and daughter died a week apart at the ages of five and seven.

"Uncle Jimmie had the strep throat too," said Vanzo. "He almost died, too, from the sickness and the emotional stress of losing the children. Some time later Aunt Margretta begged my mother to let her adopt my sister, Joyce Mercer. I wasn't born yet. Of course, mother said no."

Cassel filled the void with her siblings and their children. The warm feelings shared by the close knit family were still evident at the birthday party as they paid homage to the dignified lady sitting at the head of the table.

It's easy to believe that there were no cars, airplanes, radio or television when Cassel was born. But it's hard to imagine living without many of the inventions that developed during her life time. She saw the beginning of Teddy bears, crayons, yo-yos, scotch tape, nylon, Tupperware and Monopoly.

So many things we take for granted didn't exist when Cassel was born. She welcomed in cornflakes, bubble gum, tea bags and McDonalds. She saw the birth of zippers, bras, Band-Aids, insulin, penicillin and Valium.

Cassel's sister, 99-year old Mary Thomas was with her to celebrate the special day.

"I think the world of my sister," said Thomas with an admiring look.

"And Margretta thinks the world of her, too," offered Vanzo. "They've always been very close."

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