Mae Gerhart with her daughter, Renee Neiman, and her one-year-old great-granddaughter.

Marking a 100th birthday ... independently

Topton, Pa. Wednesday July 22, 2015

Oval glasses and silvery-white hair frame Mae Gerhart’s face as she leads a guest to her accommodations at The Lutheran Home at Topton. She is getting ready to celebrate her July birthday with her family.

And this is a special birthday—it's her 100th.

But it's special in another way because Mae Gerhart is not a resident of the nursing care center at The Lutheran Home at Topton, or even its personal care center. Rather, she lives in one of the apartments on the senior living community's campus ... as an independent living resident!

Gerhart's answer to questions abou how she stays spry comes quickly: "I love the Lord, that’s the first thing, and I take walks, and I eat right and I pray and I guess that’s it.”

The oldest of three children who loved her brother and sister dearly, Gerhart attended church and Sunday school every Sunday with her family. “It was a good family. My mother was one of 14 children, like Ralph (Gerhart’s late husband) was. They lived in the country on farms and every Sunday we went to visit at one of the farms; every Sunday,” she says, smiling and adding: “We had a good family life.”

Our family is very close; if there is any way she can help, she will .... 

“She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met," says Lauren Fairchild, activities coordinator for independent living at The Lutheran Home at Topton. "She always has a positive attitude. She’s always greeting people. She’s so friendly; she’s a bright star here. She’s so grateful for the life she has had.”

“There’s always been love in our family,” says daughter Renee Neiman. “Our family is very close. When one needs help, the others are always there. If there is any way that she can help us, she will.”

Ralph and Mae Gerhart lived near Carsonia Lake for more than 30 years. She served as a legal secretary for judges and attorneys, while Ralph was a steel worker at Carpenter Technology. In their early years, she says, you could buy bread for 50 cents and gas for a dollar a gallon. Renee became part of their lives through adoption. Family reunions and picnics were always a major part of their lives.

“My husband and I loved to have parties," she says. "We always had a lot of people at the house for holidays. It was always hot dogs and hamburgers and potato salad. We had a big house with a big patio ... back near the creek and we always had company."

One special memory involves her initial experiences driving their first car, a Plymouth. 

“Ralph really trusted me," she says, smiling. "I think it was because he taught me! Once he taught me, I was a pretty good driver and I drove a lot.”

At first, though, her husband sat beside her giving constant directions, she says: "'Don’t do that. Turn here. You’re driving too fast. Go ahead of this car.' He was always giving me directions." When the time came, however, it was she who taught their daughter how to drive.

Family gathering: Front, l-r, Renee Neiman, Mae Gerhart, and Niki Brennan; back, Nicole and Greg Neiman with Ashlyn, Tom Neiman, Michael Neiman, and Jeremy Brennan. Collin Neiman, 17, was not able to be present for the photograph.

Family gathering: Front, l-r, Renee Neiman, Mae Gerhart, and Niki Brennan; back, Nicole and Greg Neiman with Ashlyn, Tom Neiman, Michael Neiman, and Jeremy Brennan. Collin Neiman, 17, was not able to be present for the photograph.

 

The Gerharts were always active and went on many bus trips and cruises with destinations such as Florida, New England, Wildwood, Bermuda, Hawaii, and Nassau. “We liked Bermuda because there was a lot to do in terms of activities," she says. 

Today, the 100-year-old remains active, participating in a range of programs at Topton including a sing-along group and even yoga classes. 

“My yoga is plenty of things with the arms,” she explains, throwing her arms up and out to demonstrate her workout. “We do a lot of things with the legs and I do that even here watching television. I do the legs and I do this and up"—she raises her arms—"so that I don’t only do yoga there, I do it here, too.”

“She keeps herself pretty limber,” agrees Neiman.

In addition to getting lots of exercise, she says, "I eat well. I have a neighbor who always gives me my lunch. Bertha [Bennicoff] does a lot of things for me. She is wonderful to me.”

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