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CREAM OF THE CROP: 95-year-old celebrates birthday doing what he loves: combining


Alvin Withrich is shown with a few of his family members who were available to gather for a photo Sept. 14 after he drove the combine for his 95th birthday on his family farm: Keith Withrich, and Rachael Koontz and Chris Withrich on the combine. From left on the ground, Briyson Withrich, Bradyn Withrich, Caleb Koontz, Colton Withrich, daughter, Jackie Fry, Tom Fry, Hiram Shammo, Corrie Withrich, Brad Withrich, Caden Withrich, Hadley Withrich and Abby Withrich.

SUGAR CREEK TWP.  Alvin Withrich has a plan for his 100th birthday five years from now. His goal is to do the same thing he did on the afternoon of his 95th birthday.

He wants to drive his combine.

Jackie Fry, one of his eight children who grew up on the family farm, said the only thing that her dad requested leading up to his milestone birthday on Sept. 14 was his favorite meal. Withrich does not hesitate to rattle off his delicious dinner of choice. He lists hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes, baked sweet corn, and “top it off with a piece of elderberry pie and a dip of ice cream.”

The cherry on top to mark the occasion was driving the same 38-year-old John Deere combine that he spent hours operating every day around this time many years ago.

“It felt good,” Withrich said, after his feet were planted firmly on the ground again after his brief drive with his son, Keith. “I said, ‘I’m ready to go down the corn rows.’”

Withrich, who was the oldest of seven, retired from farming in 1997. His wife, Alice, who passed away five years ago, had a challenge keeping him at home. His farm machinery called to him — especially at harvest time. He filled in from time to time when needed, and sometimes the retiree would sneak away to do some farm work before his wife caught him. Before his birthday, he hadn’t run the combine for over 15 years.

But every time he saw his large, old, faithful green friend, he would begin to itch to get back in the cab and behind the wheel.

“I always liked the corn the best,” Withrich said. “You can just sit on the combine and just float along the field.”

Read the complete story in the Sept. 23, 2020 edition.

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