September 17, 2007

Oldest man in Winsted celebrates 100 years of life

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

The oldest man in Winsted, Eugene (Gene) Ochu will celebrate his 100th birthday Thursday, Sept. 20.

Until 2006, he was still providing parts and service as an Allis Chalmers dealer, a business which he began in 1951, in the Ochu Implement Company building on the corner of McLeod County Road 1 and Main Avenue in Winsted.

In a fall on Easter Sunday, 2006, Ochu injured his wrist and ankle and since that time, he has been at St. Mary’s Care Center, where it has been said that he keeps the staff on their toes.

Born in 1907, he was raised on the Ochu family farm in rural Lester Prairie by his parents, Theophile (Tuffy) and Lena Stapel Ochu.

As a young man, in addition to farming, he owned a saloon in Young America, and worked for the Winsted Telephone Company and Pure Milk Products Company.

When Gene married Marie Meuleners Sept. 12, 1945, he moved to the Meuleners’ family home in downtown Winsted.

He earned a certificate in diesel engineering at Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis in 1947, and opened the first John Deere farm implement dealership in downtown Winsted.

In 1949, Gene moved his family, which included a daughter, Jean, born in 1946, to the new Ochu Implement Company building on the edge of town.

In 1952, Gene and Marie had a second child, a son, Mark.

Although he sold his dairy herd in 1951, Gene was not ready to give up farming. His time was combined between chores and field work on the farm and the implement business.

He focused on raising hogs and steers, and applying innovative methods to cash cropping.

He was one of the few farmers in the area to plant flax and malting barley.

While plowing his fields in November of 1967, Gene was run over by his tractor. He was stranded in the field for nearly four hours until his neighbors, Oria and Albert Brinkmeier, came to his rescue.

During his subsequent six-week hospitalization, the Holy Trinity Knights of Columbus organized a plowing bee to finish up the field work.

Undaunted by the accident, he did not retire from farming until 1992 at the age of 85.

Then Gene turned his farming skills to organic gardening, which he maintained until the age of 98.

He enjoyed planting, tending, and harvesting all the fruits and vegetables as well as freezing, canning, and cooking sauces and jams.

Marie, his wife of 56 years, died in November 2001 at the age of 96.

After her death, Gene continued to live an active and independent lifestyle that included gardening, baking bread, doing mechanic work, and keeping up with current events.

He especially enjoyed helping his good friend, Fred Lukes in his concertina shop and traveling with him to various events.

Gene’s hobbies and interests have been many

For years, Gene was an avid hunter and fisherman. His reputation as a marksman was well known.

His other interests included brewing beer, making wine, cooking maple syrup in the woods, and the farm and meat processing.

Behind his shop he had a small smokehouse for home-cured bacon, hams, and various homemade sausages.

Today, he enjoys spending time with his 3-year-old grandson, Theophile, and visiting with family and friends.

Information for this article was obtained from Mark Ochu.

Open house for Eugene Ochu’s 100th birthday

An open house to celebrate Eugene Ochu’s 100th birthday will take place in the dining room at St. Mary’s Care Center Sunday, Sept. 23 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Eugene was born Sept. 20, 1907.

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