Viola McConnell

Sunshine and warmer weather brought Viola McConnell, 100, to The Gardner News office to renew her annual subscription. Last year when McConnell stopped by, she was 99 — and doing fine, she said.
McConnell has lived in the area most of her life. Although she grew up in Illinois, shortly out of high school she visited relatives in Gardner and met a “cute” young man working at the hardware store. That man was Vincent Bigelow, who later became her husband.
“I was out of high school, not yet 20. We went together for several years before we got married,” she said during an interview last year. They spent the first few years of marriage in Overland Park before Vincent eventually got a job in Gardner, delivering fuel to farmers. Later, they would have their own business here and built a house on North Pine.
She remembers a feed store in downtown Gardner on Elm Street, where people would buy live chickens for dinner.
She calls the building on the corner of Main and Center “the big old bank” and says regardless of all the name changes, it’s always been “the big old bank.”
Vincent and Viola had three children – Rachel, born in 1947, Margaret in 1950 and James in 1957, and now McConnell has five grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
Vincent died in 1969, and Viola was a widow for 22 years.
In her 70’s, she worked at Gill Studios and eventually married James McConnell, who also worked there. The marriage lasted ten years until James McConnell died.