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Four women at Twinsburg's Grande Village see 100 years of history

Centenarians celebrate new year with grace

By APRIL HELMS Reporter Published: January 4, 2017 12:00 AM
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TWINSBURG -- In 1914, Woodrow Wilson was president and about 92.2 million people lived in the United States. World War I began in Europe and the world gave us the traffic cone and fortune cookie.

Movie-goers could watch "The Perils of Pauline" and "The Knockout." Baseball player Joe DiMaggio, actor Alec Guinness and boxer Joe Louis were born.

1914 also welcomed Mary Lee Smith and Esther Simon on March 9 and Oct. 15 of that year, respectively.

Smith and Simon are two of three centenarians who reside at Grande Village Retirement Community. Constance Roberto, one year their junior, was born in 1915 (the same year as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Orson Welles).

A fourth resident, Marie Foust, will join Grande Village's 100+ club next month, when she turns 100 Jan. 14.

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Simon is an Ohio transplant from New Jersey.

"My father was a miner," Simon said. "He worked in the coal mines of West Virginia. My mother stayed home. They were mostly stay-a- home then."

Simon said her family didn't have many of the conveniences people take for granted today.

"When I was a youngster, my parents, they didn't have a washing machine or vacuum cleaner," she said. "Everything was done the hard way. Clothes were hung outside."

Entertainment options were also limited, she said.

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Still, Simon she enjoyed going to the movies.

"All the kids, we used to go to the movies on Saturdays," she said. "They were like cliffhangers, you had to find out what happened the next week."

Simon, an only child, married George Simon in 1931.

"I was married for 61 years," she said.

They had two daughters and a son, 11 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and a great-great grandson.

Smith came from Pennsylvania, where her father also was a coal miner.

"Way up in the mountains," Smith said. "I am a coal miner's daughter, and I was proud."

Smith said she loved to travel, especially by airplane, a chic and fashionable experience in the 1920s and 1930s.

"I wanted to jump out of a plane a few years ago," Smith said.

Unfortunately, she said she wasn't allowed to chase her George H.W. Bush aspirations because she didn't weigh enough.

Smith's son served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years and now lives in Texas.

"I don't care for Texas," she said. "It's all right, but " trailing off with a shrug.

Smith was not the only one with an adventurous streak.

"My boy, Jimmy, he's hitchhiking through California," she said. "I wonder how he is?"

When she was younger, Smith spent time working as a waitress at a restaurant in Kent.

"It was across from the post office, on Main Street," she said.

Foust was born in Ravenna and is also an only child.

"My mother lost two before she had me," Foust said. "My father was superintendent of Cleveland Worsted Mills. They made cloth for men's pants. My mother was a seamstress."

Foust was married to husband Lester for 52 years, and they had three sons.

She was a high school teacher for 19 years with a school in Columbus.

"I taught French, English and nutrition," she said.

When she was younger, Foust says she enjoyed golf and tennis. She moved several times in her life.

"We moved a lot because of my husband's job," Foust said. "He was president of a company that made men's clothes."

Roberto was out with family during the interview, but told Grande Village activities assistant Mary Mencini that she's kept busy "all her life."

"Her secret to longevity is she likes to stay busy," Mencini said. "She was always busy because her mother died" at a young age, "and at 15, she had to take care of five siblings."

"She lied about her age so she could work," Mencini said. "She took cars of her father and siblings. Her father was very upset when she married."

And Roberto has been diligent through the decades in her civic duties, apparently never missing an election.

One common trait in the four women is that they remain active, Mencini said.

"They all walk," Mencini said. "They are all still active."

The three women added that they enjoy different games at Grande Village and engage in many of the activities.

Simon was more ambivalent about the trick to reaching 100 years.

"Only God knows why I'm still here," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "And he's not talking."

 

ahelms@recordpub.com


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