Celebrating Hilda: Midland resident turns 106

Celebrating Hilda: Midland resident turns 106

Hilda Aiken (center) celebrates her 106th birthday with her granddaughter Jacque Dompier (left) and Dompier’s boyfriend, Cole Jordan, July 9, 2024.

Dan Chalk/Midland Daily News

“She’s probably the nicest person you’ll ever meet.”

Andrew Dompier’s thoughts about his grandmother, Hilda Aiken, were shared equally by about 50 family members and friends who gathered at Primrose Retirement Community on Tuesday to mark what would have been Hilda’s 106th birthday.

“If you know her, she will have an impact on your life,” Dompier said.

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She was born Hilda Bensch on July 9, 1918, about four months before the end of World War I.

Her parents, Elizabeth and Otto Bensch, had a farm on Stark Road, and the nearby elementary school she attended was also called the Bensch School. Hilda later attended Rodd Street Junior High and the high school where Grove Park now stands.

A lot has changed in Midland since then.

“I never thought I’d live to be so old. No one lives to be so old,” Hilda said with a smile.

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She did not hesitate when asked what might have contributed to her longevity.

“Hard work on the farm. It keeps you young when you work all the time,” said Hilda, who was one of four siblings.

After high school, Hilda graduated from Bay City Business College and was employed in the purchasing department of Dow in Building 47.

A young man named Clair Aiken worked as a mechanical engineer down the hall in the same building. He grew up in Jackson and graduated from the University of Michigan.

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“That’s where I met him – at work,” Hilda said.

Hilda and Clair married in 1941 and enjoyed 72 years of marriage before his death in 2013. They had four children — Rick Aiken, Jerry Aiken, Deb Dompier and Kathy Aiken. Hilda now has nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren — and many of those relatives were at the celebration Tuesday.

Hilda’s children recalled what a positive influence she had on them when they were growing up.

“She’s a really nice, sensitive person and a great mom,” Kathy said.

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“She was very disciplined, but that kept us from falling into chaos,” Jerry said.

“She wasn’t pushy, but she definitely had an opinion,” Deb said. “She was very respectful. She never gossiped about anyone.”

Rick recalled that his mother knew all the kids on their street and knew when their birthdays were.

“She remembers a lot of things I can’t remember,” Rick said with admiration.

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During the event, Hilda, dressed in a beautiful green outfit, talked to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other guests, never losing a broad smile on her face.

At one point Jerry made a champagne toast to his mother.

“This is the best mom anyone could ever have,” he said. “We’re glad you’re still here and we hope to do it again next year.”

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Managing Editor Dan Chalk covers business, education, sports, military and interesting people and events in the Midland region. Contact him at [email protected].