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Oldest living SCIT Member Mary Zilz to turn 100
6/3/2015 8:00:00 AM - Tribal Observer

(Editor’s note: Mary Zilz, the oldest living member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan is turning 100 years old on June 18. The following article is information taken from At-Large Contract Health Clerk Denise Pelcher’s November 2014 article on Zilz. Zilz’s address is listed at the end of the article for anyone wishing to send her birthday greetings. The full article is available at under November 2014, page 7.)


Oldest living SCIT Member Mary Zilz to turn 100

Denise Pelcher, Contract Health Clerk 


Mary Zilz or “Monnie” (Indian for Mary) was born Mary Lenora Smith on June 18, 1915, and holds the honor of being the oldest living member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

            Mary was born the second of five children of Jennie May Pelcher and Obadiah Burt Smith. She considers herself to be an American Indian and very proud of her Indian heritage. Her grandparents were Moses and Mariah Pelcher and her maternal grandparents were Obediah and Mary (Burke) Smith who lived in Gladwin, Mich.

            Her father was a blacksmith by trade. During the summer months, he would take care of the farmers’ horses in the area. In the winter, he would go to the Upper Peninsula to Trout Creek lumber camp to take care of the lumberman’s horses. It was during this time that her family would go live with her grandparents. 

            Mary’s Grandpa Pelcher was a minister at the North Branch Indian Church until he retired in his ‘70s. He would preach in the Ojibwa language and English.

             Her great uncle Scott Peters, agent executive with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, helped her get a job in Battle Creek with the Postem Factory.  While working there, she met her future husband Robert Mullen and began a long-distance relationship. After Robert was hired at Oldsmobile in Lansing, Mich., he felt more financially secure and they married in 1936.  They were blessed with three children; Robert Jr. (Bobby), Mary Ann and Nannette Jean. Crib death took Bobby just two months after his birth, but the birth of Mary Ann and Nannette removed the sadness of a lost son.

            On April 7, 1952, Robert died of a sudden heart attack.

            In 1955, she met and married Carl Zilz. She lost her daughter Nannette in 1989 to breast cancer, and then lost her husband Carl in 1991 due to melanoma.       

Mary is a very independent lady and still lives on her own to this day, in a duplex attached to her daughter’s duplex in St. Johns, Mich. Her family has grown to 11 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, and 17 great-great grandchildren.  

Mary’s daughter, Mary Ann, asked to include her mailing address if anyone would like to send her a letter or birthday card. She said her mom is the type of person that will respond to letters.


Mary Zilz,

207 W. Sturgis,

St. Johns, MI 48879



Have a blessed 100th year Mary.

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