Local resident, poet, to turn 100Published 10:58am Wednesday, December 9, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The house was built in the late 1940s. Inside, Ben Groat has pulled out pieces of his history, collections of information, photos and writings. He’s lived in Niles all his life, a life that will mark 100 years on Jan. 4.He never considered moving and he’s not one to expand on subjects relating to himself.
But speaking with Groat, bits and pieces of his history, (incidentally the very title of a collection of his history put together for him by a friend) slip out like a bookmark coming loose between the pages of a novel.
“I never had too much to say,” Groat said Tuesday. But when asked what lessons he has discovered during his lifetime, he remembers an interview he’d recently seen on television of another man who’d lived to an impressive age.
The key to longevity, he said, is “all in the breathing. You breathe long enough, you’ll live a long time.”
In his time, Groat was born just seven miles north of Niles in 1910. He went to Niles High School where he was a standout athlete and said he read in a South Bend Tribune article during his high school career in sports that he was, at the time, the “best football player to ever come out of Niles High School.”
“It said pound for pound,” Groat recalls with a laugh. “I was 120 pounds.”
Groat went on to run his own business for a short time in downtown Niles. He can remember the city back through the years. He was married for 45 years to his wife, Blanche, who passed away in 1975. He worked the sports department at the old Montgomery Ward store in town and that is where he retired from.
It was after he retired that Groat began to write.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked about why he started writing after so many years. “I’ve got a peculiar mind, I guess … My mother used to read a little poetry to me and explain it to me as I recall.”
Groat’s poetry became a collection that he shared, one day, with a friend who shared them with his wife who came back to Groat and insisted he try to publish his work.
And he did.”Poetry and Poetic Stories” was published in 2006 through Johnson Graphics in Decatur. It features illustrations done by Groat as well.
He still has a few copies at home, a few that he’s hanging on to, he said.
His poems express his love for his family, his love for the great outdoors. Groat spent 53 consecutive seasons hunting dear in the Upper Peninsula, something he recalls fondly – though he admits he always had a little trouble coming to terms with pulling the trigger.
“I liked to deer hunt and yet it always bothered me to shoot,” he said. You know, they’re a beautiful animal.”
A lot has changed over the years, changes that have not escaped the attention of this lifetime resident. Not all the changes have been to his liking, he admits. Still, he’s never thought of living anywhere else – and one gets the feeling he’s never thought of living any other way than he has.
A life that reads a lot like a poem.