Heidelberg alumna, 101, celebrates her 80th class reunion

Lenore (Van Gundia) Costello, 101, was among the nearly 600 Heidelberg University graduates who returned to campus to celebrate a class reunion during the annual Alumni Weekend.

Costello traveled from her home in Lake Alfred, Florida, to celebrate her 80th class reunion. She was the oldest graduate at Alumni Weekend this year and the lone representative of her Class of 1938 in attendance.

Costello was born and raised on a farm in Sycamore. Three of Costello’s four sisters also attended Heidelberg, and two of them — Billie Kuenzli, Class of ’45, and Jane Barton, Class of ’68 — also graduated. Growing up in the Depression era, she remembers working her way through college washing dishes at France Residence Hall.

With a major in sociology and minors in biology and history, Costello was hired by noted history professor Martin Walker Smith to be his student assistant. She helped him grade papers, scan and clip newspapers for articles about antiques and hire housekeepers.

In addition to her jobs on campus, Costello also worked Saturdays at Woolworth’s for starting pay of 11 cents per hour.

She also landed a job with the Seneca County chapter of the American Red Cross through the National Youth Association program during her sophomore year, later becoming the executive director for the Wyandot County and Richland County chapters.

Costello spent the majority of her career as an executive with the Girl Scouts, starting with a small, six-town council of 650 girls before moving to a much larger seven-county region in central Florida, with oversight for 9,000 girls. In 1960, Costello was instrumental in constructing a 600-acre Girl Scout camp in Florida called Wildwood. Several years ago, the camp’s lake was renamed. It’s now called Lake Lenore in honor of Costello’s contributions to the organization. She continued to teach at a Girl Scout camp until she was 90.

Her secret to longevity, she said, is staying active. At age 97, she went on a church mission trip to Puerto Rico. For her 100th birthday, she went canoeing. For her 101st birthday, she took a trip to Switzerland.

Today, Costello enjoys reading, knitting hats, playing Scrabble, watching the Tampa Bay Rays and Duke basketball — “I don’t know how I got hooked, but I really like Coach K” — along with TV game shows.

Her advice for a long, healthy life: “Every day, get up and find something to do,” she said. “Just never stop.”