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Lucille Kester holds her 100th great-grandchild, Kinley Roemmich, Feb. 22 at St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Neb.

Jennifer Johnson, left, and Rachel Roemmich with her newborn daughter, Kinley, and Lucille Kester Feb. 22 at St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Neb.

Woman enjoys 100th great-grandchild

Lucille Kester remembers holding her first great-grandchild nearly 20 years ago. And in February, she held her 100th great-grandchild.

The feelings were very similar.

"It’s always been really special to have a new baby," Kester said.

With the birth in Grand Island, Neb., of Kinley Roemmich on Feb. 20, Kester, 91, a lifelong member of St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater, now has 50 great-grandsons and 50 great-granddaughters, as well as 46 grandchildren and 11 children.

Kester’s first great-grandchild was born 19 years ago on Feb. 21 – Kinley missed sharing a birthday with her cousin by only a few hours.

Kester and her husband, Harold, farmed north of Clearwater until his retirement in 1985. He died in 2005, and Kester stayed at their home until two years ago, when she moved to an assisted living facility in Neligh.

 

Strong faith

According to her daughter and Kinley’s grandmother, Jennifer Johnson, faith and family is important to the Kester clan, and all of her parents’ descendants have remained Catholic, a testament to the strong faith they instilled in their children.

"Church has always been very important," said Johnson, of St. Mary Parish in Sutton, Neb. "We’ve always gone every Sunday, and growing up as kids, we would go to confession every Saturday."

And now Johnson and her husband, Bill, are active in their parish, including Johnson teaching religious education. Other siblings and their husbands and wives volunteer in their parishes in Lincoln; Aurora, Colo.; Jackson, Wyo.; and other cities.

Terri Cammack, Johnson’s sister and a member of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln, said the Catholic community provides support and comfort to the family. She remembers neighbors, friends and parishioners helping them when their youngest sibling, Joseph, died of cancer at age 9, and her father accepting his son’s death as the will of God.

"It was sad," she said, "but we knew he was in heaven, and knowing that made me feel better."

 

Life lessons

One fond memory, Johnson said, was her parents treating her and her siblings to candy bars every Sunday after church.

"When we got home, we all got to go into a drawer and get a candy bar," she said. "Nowadays, kids get candy all the time, but back then, getting a candy bar was pretty special."

But Kester modeled a Catholic faith with more than sweets. She taught CCD for many years, and until she moved to Neligh, she prepared the first Communion class at St. Theresa’s for 25 years.

"I think religion is the most important thing in your life," Kester said.

Living on the farm, Kester said, all of her children had chores and everyone pitched in.

"We were far from wealthy then, but we did fine," she said, adding that almost all of her children attended college. "I have a feeling that God provides. He surely did for us, because all the kids are doing well, and they’ve all made a good life for themselves. Like any family, we’ve had our share of sickness, but as a whole we were really blessed."

 

Looking forward to 100

Johnson said the family had fun speculating about which grandchild would have the 100th great-grandchild.

"We had a family wedding in August, and it was kind of a joke – ‘Who’s going to have the 100th great-grandchild?’" she said.

One of her siblings actually teased her daughter, Rachel Roemmich, also of St. Mary Parish in Sutton, saying "I hear you’re having the 100th" – not knowing that Rachel was, in fact, pregnant with Kinley at the time.

But Johnson is quick to echo her mother – all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are special.

"We have so much fun with all the kids, and we really enjoy getting together," she said.

Kinley won’t be Kester’s last great-grandchild, either. Two more grandchildren are expecting babies, and 10 others have yet to marry.

Kester is grateful, but taking the numbers in stride. Her mother, after, all, had 81 grandchildren and more than 200 great-grandchildren.

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