Today would have been my mother's one hundredth birthday. That seems pretty amazing and makes ME sound pretty elderly myself. But I was kind of a wonder baby, born when my mother was well into middle age. She had delayed marriage to my dad due to her feelings of responsiblilty for supporting her mother and two unmarried siblings. And World War II intervened too.
She lived a whole lifetime before I came on the scene.
Her father was killed when she was five, plunging the family into truly desperate straits. There was no question about frivolities like attending high school with her friends. After eighth grade, she spent two years at "commercial" training with the nuns at her old grade school, and at 16, in 1922 (the year she "bobbed" her hair), she became a legal secretary in her hometown of Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, earning the lofty sum of $.75 a day . She worked for a man who kept a never-emptied spittoon in his office and who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in order to fight the threat of Catholics attaining teaching positions or elected office. Surely a discouraging place for a 16 year old.
Her ambition and brains pushed her to aspire to Better Things. Eventually she landed a job as secretary to the City Solicitor of Bradford, Pennsylvania. She functioned as a paralegal in his office for the next twenty years. They didn't call them paralegals then, but that's what she was.
I have her office typewriter, a big black Royal, that makes such a nice crisp sound when you hit the keys. She could go ninety miles an hour on that machine. It was a wonder to behold.
She ran around with a crew of wise-cracking career girls in Bradford. They played bridge like fiends. They vacationed yearly in places like New York City, Nantucket, and Montreal.
All this before she ever met my dad.
When she got married (at nearly 41), she retired from Mr. Nash's office, but didn't stay content at home for too long. Within a few years she was dabbling in real estate and ended up owning several big old homes in Bradford which had been converted into apartments. Those were good investments. They made it possible for me to go to college.
Her vivid stories of her growing up (in what seemed to me like another century) and of her family inspired my love of history and my interest in genealogy. She also made the best apple pie and blueberry pie in the world.
We had the pleasure of having her nearby through the last dozen years of her life. She was able to be involved in the lives of her grandchildren: to attend the concerts and the graduations. There never was a prouder grandma.
She lived to just short of her 96th birthday, a good long life. It's still hard to believe she's gone.