If you ask Joan Hanzlik what it’s like being 89 years old, she will tell you she doesn’t know. She still feels like she’s in her 40s.
She is the youngest of four siblings that have made Roseburg their home since 1947. Hanzlik and her brother, 91-year-old Wally Hunnicutt, were both born in Roseburg, but the siblings grew up in Portland and then Eugene when their father was transferred by the freight company he worked for.
“We always felt like this was home,” Hunnicutt said. “We’ve left — moved away, traveled, joined the military — but we always came back.”
Hunnicutt joined the Air Force in 1950, just before the draft was issued for the Korean War. That was a memorable year for the siblings. Betty Schultz, the oldest, was married in April. In May, their cousin Sandi Smick was all but adopted into the family when her mother died in a car accident. Hanzlik was married in June and middle sister Doloris Sconce was married in July. Come August, 21-year-old Hunnicutt left for his tour of service.
Hunnicutt flew 25 missions as the Central Fire Control gunner on a Boeing B-29 Superfortress. All but one of those missions were at night, each lasting 11 to 13 hours. Hunnicutt then returned stateside, where he helped train other gunners before he was discharged. Once his service was over, he returned to Roseburg to help his father run the South Stephens Market, which is now J & J Market & Deli.
While Hunnicutt was in the military, his sisters were building lives of their own. Schultz worked as a customer service representative for Pacific Power. She took a seven year break to raise her two children, but was asked to return and ultimately worked for the company for nearly 30 years. Hunnicutt’s future wife, Connie, also worked for Pacific Power and it was Schultz who introduced the two.
After marrying Connie in 1954, Hunnicutt would continue to help his father run the South Stephens Market until it was sold in 1965, raise three sons, own and operate the Colony Market in Hucrest from 1964-1982, and serve 23 years on the housing authority advisory board.
Sconce worked for the Roseburg Bi-Mart for nearly 19 years. Once retired, she took up the mantle of housewife and great-grandmother, helping to raise her great-grandchildren while their parents worked.
Hanzlik said she never really found an occupation that kept her interest long, but she loved interior decorating and raising her daughter. After marrying her second husband, she spent most of her time traveling. At one point, Hanzlik and her husband visited 15 different countries in the span of five years.
“This is a nice town to live in,” Schultz said. “A nice town to raise a family. We all had good jobs. The schools were good. There was never any reason to leave.”
In the more than seven decades the siblings have called Roseburg home, they have witnessed quite the history. Hunnicutt recalls the construction of Interstate 5 in the early ‘50s because it drastically reduced business for the family-owned market.
“It made such a big difference. South Stephens Market was on 99 and that was the main artery up and down from Eugene and we noticed a great deal of difference with the traffic that moved from 99 over to the freeway,” Hunnicutt said. “It was actually better. It was less congested.”
Both Schultz and Sconce remember the Roseburg Blast, when a truck loaded with explosives parked in the downtown area blew up in the early morning hours of Aug. 7, 1959.
“We had just put bunk beds in the kids’ bedroom and when the thing went off, I thought someone had fallen out of the bunk bed,” Schultz said. “I got up and the sky was all red, so we knew something bad had happened. And that sound. It was a scary sound.”
Sconce lived on Southeast Pine Street, only a few blocks from the explosion. The bedroom and dining room windows of her home were blown out. It was really scary, Sconce said, and she has never seen anything like it since.
Hunnicutt and Hanzlik were in San Francisco for a baseball game when they heard about an explosion in a Southern Oregon town. Hanzlik said she assumed it had occurred in Ashland until she tried to call home and was unable to get through.
“My daughter was about 18 months old and feeling unwell when we left. I called the next morning and couldn’t get through. Finally, we called the Red Cross to find out why we couldn’t get through and that is when they told us what had happened,” Hanzlik said. “Everyone was OK, but I was so anxious to get home.”
The siblings range in age from Schultz, 92, Hunnicutt, 91, Sconce, 90 and Hanzlik, 89. Overall, Hanzlik said, they have all been rather lucky.
“We have had a good life,” Hanzlik said. “I always had a friend, either one of my sisters or my brother. We’ve been very lucky in our lives.”
When asked what they attribute their longevity to, the siblings claim it is their stubborn nature.
“We’re just so ornery,” Schultz said.
“None of us want to go first,” Hunnicutt agreed.