Editor's Update: John Mance Calloway, featured in this story, died Sept. 14, 2017 at the age of 101. Visitation is at South Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday, Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon. The funeral service will immediately follow at the church. Bruial will be in New Crown Cemetery.
INDIANAPOLIS -- All four pre-k and kindergarten classes at IPS Montessori School 87 had a special guest visit their classrooms recently, marking a special day. It was a celebration of mutual admiration.
John Mance Calloway, affectionately known as Mr. Mancy, is speaking to the kids in room 100 of the near westside school. The doorway is festively decorated with colorful streamers as the kids celebrate all things 100 – including the World War II veteran. A little girl couldn't wait to tell him why the day was so special, "It's the 100th day of school!" she said.
“The 100th day of school today?” he questioned. The kids loudly answer, “Yes!”
“Oh," he said. “What’s my name?”
“Mr. Mancy!” the kids respond.
“Thank you," he said. "I can’t say all your names but – Hi Kids! I’m 100, and a few days over that. And happy. And you guys are happy, too, right?" he asked them.
They again answer in the affirmative.
“You look happy. You look good,” he told them.
Montessori schools are known for their hands on, tactile teaching. Kids explore concepts by using their hands – holding, counting and gluing objects to paper – 100 marshmallows, 100 gummy bears, 100 small toy pieces. The hallways at School 87 are lined with artwork of how the youngsters think they’ll look when they’re 100. They drew faces on crumpled construction paper to illustrate wrinkles and used cotton balls to show their white hair.
The teacher asks the students, “You wanna ask him your question?"
A little girl responds.
“How did you stay to be 100?” she said. The teacher rephrases, “What’s your secret?”
“Well my secret is I trust in God," he said. "And I don’t smoke and I don’t drink, OK?”
A small boy gets his attention, “Eh, Mr. Mancy, do you like to dance?"
Calloway grins and says, “Yes, I like to dance, when I can.”
The kids are excited and several shout out, “Would you like to have a dance party? Dance party?”
The teacher asks a girl in the front to explain what dance parties are.
“We only can dance. No running," she said. "No playing tag and if you do – you have to sit out. And no break dancing!”
Calloway laughed and agreed, “Never. Never at a hundred! You don’t break dance!”
The students proudly counted to 100, and Calloway counted right along. When they reached 100 they all cheered.
While seated at the front of the class with his cane nearby, the children presented their new centenarian friend with an exceptionally large hand-made birthday card.
“And that is from all the preschool and kindergarteners in our school," the teacher said. "They all signed it for you”
“Thank you for ALL of these, OK? Thanks very much. I’ll keep this," Calloway told the kids. "I’ll know you all now. I’ll study these names.”
The little girl in the front of the class started introducing and pointing out the kids individually, “I’m Kennedy, he’s Eli, he’s Jason, he’s…." Calloway just smiled and laughed.
For Mr. Mancy, friendship is ageless.