Irene Dunham in May 2017, aged 109
|Birth:||16 December 1907|
Bath, Michigan, USA
|Age:||112 years, 279 days|
Dunham was born Irene Babcock on 16 December 1907 to Duane and Mabel (Whitney) Babcock. She grew up on a farm located four miles from Bath, Michigan. She was the oldest of nine siblings. She began attending Bath Consolidated School in seventh grade.
Bath School Bombing
On 18 May 1927, Dunham, then aged 19, took a day off school due to a sore throat. That day, school board trustee Andrew Kehoe had planted 1000lbs of dynamite in the basement of the building, which exploded, killing 38 schoolchildren and six adults, and injured at least 58 other people. After the explosion that morning, he parked his truck, loaded with more explosives, in front of what was left of the building. He detonated the vehicle, killing himself, the school superintendent, two adults, and a child.
Dunham and her mother heard the explosion, then got in their car and drove to see what it was. They arrived to find the north wing of the school in a pile of rubble. Several of Dunham's siblings were in the school at the time of the explosion. Her sister Eva jumped out of a first-floor window with some classmates to escape, and her brother, Lloyd, lost a finger in the explosion.
Shortly after the bombing, she married Laurits Dunham. The ceremony had been planned before the attack. She continued with school later that year, with classes being held in various places in the town, such as a drug store. She eventually received her diploma 50 years later when Bath High School’s 1977 graduating class invited the 1927 senior class to their ceremony.
Dunham's husband Laurits died in 1972. They had a daughter Lorraine and at least two sons, one of whom is deceased. Dunham has nine grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and 23 great-great-grandchildren. She survived a bout of colon cancer, surprising her doctors.
Dunham has lived in Lansing, Michigan, for more than 80 years. At the age of 109, she lived independently, could walk with the aid of a walker, and still held a driver’s license. She became a supercentenarian in December 2017.
- Bath School bombing: Oldest surviving student recalls ‘how awful it was’ Lansing State Journal, 11 May 2017
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