DEWITT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLNS)— At a senior assisted living center in DeWitt Township, Michigan you can find Irene Dunham, a woman who lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, and now more than 100-years after she was born, her second global pandemic.

At 113 years and 114 days, Dunham is Michigan’s oldest living resident and the 24th oldest living person in the world.

To put 113 years in perspective, consider this, in her life, the woman who is now known as “Ms. Irene” was alive for the invention of the automobile, and the airplane. At 99-year-old she brought a brand new car.

Living as long as Ms. Irene doesn’t come without its challenges however, like many of us she’s felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, only this is her second experience with a disease wreaking havoc around the world, the first when she was 11-year-old with the 1918 Flu.

There’s also heartache, out three children, she’s outlived two of them, still alive, her youngest son Bruce, and daughter-in-law Bonnie who are both in their 70’s. Both she says are great, and she doesn’t know what she’d do without them.

1977 Graduation Class of 27

In addition to being the oldest living person in Michigan, Dunham is also the oldest surviving student of the “1927 Bath School Bombing”, she was in 12th grade, and 19-years-old at the time. She stayed home from school that day because she wasn’t feeling well. On that day 38 of her classmates died, in what is still considered the deadliest school tragedy in U.S. history.

The events of that day were so tragic, she never received her diploma from the school, not until the class of 1977 invited her back 50 years later, to participate in their ceremony.

“God bless them, they gave us their robes and had us come in and have our ceremony… It’s 50 years later…….and here I am still going on” 


So what’s the secret to living a long life? That was the question 6 News Anchor Sheri Jones asked Ms. Irene when she agreed to sit down and tell us her life story.

The answer? Hard work.

She grew up on a 141-acre farm on the edge of the Looking Glass River, where she learned the importance of staying active and spending time outside. It’s what she credits for keeping her young and healthy.

As for the what keeps her trucking along, her love for flowers, family and friends.

“You have to do the best you can with what the circumstances, but just hang in there I guess”

What she does know, is that she’s still here for a reason, even if she’s not privy to the why.

“What my kids tell me, God knows he’s keeping me for something, so I look around and wonder what is he keeping me for?”

If you meet Irene Dunham, you might think its that infectious smile of hers.