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Still going strong at 100
By: JACQUELINE WATSON Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
On the verge of turning 100, Irma Schlott does not manifest signs of her age unless it is in the wisdom and life experience she has attained. With her firm handshake and keen mind, she is not what is expected of someone who has lived for a century.
Born May 18, 1912, Irma has lived through many decades and historic events, but it is family that seems to help define her personal history.
"Everything that you experience, I think, determines the way you go more or less, but I can’t say any one thing," commented Irma on what events shaped her.
Irma’s experiences over the years have varied with the changing times. Adventures have progressed from her family buying their first car when she was nine to traveling with her sister on a bus tour to the west coast at the age of 70. A year later, she went even farther to Alaska. Her jobs have ranged from working in a five-and-ten-cent store in Ephrata to a shirt factory, where she met her husband, to being employed as a snack bar waitress at a bowling alley.
Irma’s life has often been characterized by her family and her care for others. Not only did she raise six children, but she also cared for her father in her home for 14 years.
Her concern for others is not limited to the family. One recent example is her involvement, up until two years ago, with the Ugly Quilters, a group at her church that makes quilts for the homeless.
"She was always there for everybody in the family — kind, patient, helpful in every way, really, never a problem, and never negative about things, always positive," stated Sharon Lesher, daughter of Irma.
One of the hardest experiences of her life, according to Irma, was the year and a half she was left raising five children on her own while her husband was away fighting in World War II.
"Just so busy cooking and cleaning and baking, taking care of children," said Irma on her position during WWII.
Her husband, Victor Schlott, went overseas the day before their second youngest child was born, excluding him from meeting her until after the war was over. Irma held their baby to prevent the child from crying as a photograph was taken to send to Victor. Her husband kept the photo with him for the duration of the war. It has remained a treasured photograph to Irma. Another time she remembers as being particularly difficult was the Great Depression.
"There were a lot of tough times. I don’t know how they did it," remarked Lesher.
Among all the impressive things Irma has seen in her life, the sight of the Northern Lights over Akron when she was a little girl remains one of her favorite scenes on which to reflect. Other memorable moments for her include running outside to see some of the first dirigibles and early planes that would fly over her house when she was a child.
Her life is rooted in local life. Born in Akron, she never lived more than half an hour from her birthplace. She and her husband even built their house from the lumber of a nearby cigar box factory which had closed. She can remember how Akron used to be and pointed out how it has grown over the years.
Irma’s current life includes reading a book a week, being head of the prayer circle at the Akron Church of the Brethren and spending time with family. Still living independently in the two-story home designed and built in the 1940s by her husband and the family, Irma says that navigating the stairs is her daily exercise.
Irma doesn’t know why she has been given so many years on this earth, but her family feels the privilege of her presence.
"I think it’s just the Lord’s will that I’m here yet. Our days are numbered," noted Irma.
"She says she doesn’t know why she’s here, and I said we still need you. We learn something from you every time we’re with you, and that’s the truth," commented Lesher about her mother.
Irma has not used her numerous years as an excuse to be anything less than pleasant to those with which she interacts. Instead, a centennial of living has been more than enough to make her a treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge that is priceless to those who know her. More SCHLOTT, page A16