Archive for Saturday, March 7, 1998


March 7, 1998


The key to a great life: Keep moving and follow the Golden Rule.

``You get what you put into this world,'' said Rebekah Leibengood of Presbyterian Manor in Lawrence. ``Treat the people you meet the way you want to be treated.''

On Monday, family and friends will join Leibengood to celebrate her 102nd birthday, an age that isn't slowing her down.

``I had a really good inheritance,'' Leibengood said, recalling her parents' and grandparents' strength and pride in their senior years. ``They made us feel we should be a family, not each one an individual. I couldn't do it without Dorothy.''

At 96, Dorothy Koch is not just Leibengood's little sister, she's her friend, helper and neighbor in the manor. The sisters are the only two surviving siblings of nine.

``I've roomed with her many times, and she's always been nice to me,'' the little sister said.

Born March 9, 1896, on a farm near Hiawatha in Brown County, Leibengood grew up with eight siblings, the third of four daughters. Keeping up with the boys made being active a must, something that she said has helped her stay healthy. Even at 101-years-old, she maintains a daily exercise regimen of walking and aerobics.

``If I didn't do those, I'd be on the second floor for good,'' she said referring to the manor's full-care nursing floor. ``I'm going to keep that way (active) until I die.''

In high school, she kept up with her brothers by playing on basketball teams and taking part in swimming events, something she continued in college.

As a school teacher for 43 years in Kansas City, Mo., Leibengood taught a little bit of everything from physical education to zoology. She began her career before graduating from Kansas University in a time that allowed high school graduates to teach grade school.

After retiring, she traveled the United States and the world with various clubs, became an avid photographer and gardener and did volunteer work locally with children and the elderly.

Although, her busy life kept her from marrying, Leibengood said her life has been full of happiness.

``I'm very particular,'' she said. ``I wanted to see the world, and I wanted to get a good job. I never found the right guy.''

Jennifer Tuttle, a manor social worker who spends a lot of time with Leibengood, said she is constantly amazed by Leibengood's stamina and effect on others.

``Everywhere we go, she gets the royal treatment,'' Tuttle said. ``It's a charm that she has. She's just kind to people, and they are to her. You really learn a life lesson from her.''

-- Selena Stevens' phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is

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