No stopping her to celebrate 100

By on January 29, 2014

Rhea Rhinehart celebrated her 100th birthday Jan. 22. She displays a banner signed by the staff at Dr. Jackson’s office, where they gave her a birthday party and sang to her in the waiting room. She said it was something she did not expect. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Rhea Rhinehart celebrated her 100th birthday Jan. 22. She displays a banner signed by the staff at Dr. Jackson’s office, where they gave her a birthday party and sang to her in the waiting room. She said it was something she did not expect. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

For Rhea Rhinehart, Jan. 22, 2014, was just an ordinary day, except for one small thing, she celebrated her 100th birthday.

Rhinehart didn’t want anything special for her birthday and told her family “no party or celebration.”

“We wanted to do something special for her, but she wouldn’t let us,” said her daughter Doris Mohn.

So they ended up celebrating her birthday in the most unlikely of places, the doctor’s office.

“She didn’t expect that,” her daughter said. They decided to contact Oregon Dairy because Mohn heard they made cupcakes in the shapes of numbers for birthdays and asked if they could do one for the number 100.

“They said they never did one for three digits before,” Mohn said.

Mohn said her daughter went out in the snowstorm that Tuesday (Jan. 21) to pick up the cupcakes and planned to drop them off at the doctor’s office, but it ended up closing because of the weather.

“I ended up having to rush over on Wednesday morning to drop them off before her appointment,” Mohn said.

Rhinehart was sitting in the waiting room when the entire staff came out to surprise her, singing “Happy Birthday.”

“I was really surprised,” she said. “I sure didn’t expect that.”

Rhinehart said when she went back for her appointment, Dr. Jackson said, “’Here comes the birthday girl!’ and I told him you could have a least made a house call.”

Rhinehart was born Jan. 22, 1914, in Reading. She has three brothers and four sisters.

She met her husband, Paul, while they were both working at Harvey’s Golden Oldsmobile. She was in the service department; he was in sales. From there they moved to Wernersville and then to Akron. She was employed at J.J. Newberrys store in Ephrata for 30 years.

“I was 70 years old when I retired,” she said, adding she had no desire to retire early. “What difference would it have made, I would have just sat around and as long as I had my health.”

Rhinehart’s husband died in 1979. She decided to sell the house in Akron in 1993 and moved to Ephrata. She has lived there ever since.

Looking back on her life, Rhinehart said there is one big change she notices.

“Back then you could walk the streets,” she said. “Now you can’t. You have to be afraid.”

Rhinehart said she used to have to walk to school everyday. There were no such things as delays or cancellations.

“Mom used to tie our boots shut when it snowed,” she said. “I was always glad when someone walked ahead of me because they would break the snow down and it was easier to walk.”

Rhinehart also said she didn’t have a television or radio growing up.

“All we had was a Victrola and a piano,” she said. “We would spend Sundays playing the piano and singing. Sometimes my cousin Ray would bring stuff over and we would make popcorn balls.”

Christmas was also a different time.

“We would only get one gift,” she said. “I remember one year my sisters and I got dolls. The next year we got clothing for the dolls.”

Rhinehart said every Christmas they had to walk 18 blocks in town to show their grandmother what they got for Christmas and then walk the 18 blocks back.

Although things may have been simpler 100 years ago, Rhinehart thinks times may have been better.

“I think we enjoyed life better than the kids today,” she said.

As for some advice on reaching the 100-year mark, Rhinehart doesn’t really have any.

“I have no secret,” she said. “I have no idea how I made it this far. I have dinner every night and don’t really eat anything after that, maybe a couple sips of water.”

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