The fellowship hall at the Timberville Church of the Brethren was beautifully decorated for this special event. A gorgeous arrangement of pink roses revealed Eleanor’s favorite color. Platters of generous portions of appetizers were ready. A uniquely crafted pink cake included her name, favorite Bible verse (John 3:16) and favorite movie stars, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Musical notes were scattered on the icing to acknowledge her musical talent.
Although it was indeed a joint effort of several family members, her niece, Paula Frazier, helped coordinate the details. She wrote a note to one of Eleanor’s favorite authors, Danielle Steel. The cordial letter and signed photo received in response were framed by Paula and on display.
When Eleanor arrived with her son, Lowell, family and friends filled the room. She is a very young centenarian in appearance, clarity of thought, and conversation.
Eleanor’s grandchildren, Dennis Garber, Cyndi Friedman, and Cheryl Jorgenson, shared some special memories with me. They recalled Sunday dinner was at their Grandmother’s house at one o’clock. Then summer brought a special treat as they relocated the meal to the cabin on Little North Mountain. Dennis’ favorite dessert was his Grandmother’s angel food cake. It was so light. It was amazing. It didn’t need icing, and she would serve it with fruit jello.
When they were young, Friday evenings often found them at Grandmother’s. She’d prepare popcorn on the stove, pour melted butter over it, and sprinkle on a good helping of salt. The children would lie on the floor eating popcorn, drinking Coke, and watching a movie. When Dennis was in his teens, he always mowed his Grandmother’s lawn. When he arrived, he knew she would have a 16-ounce bottle of Coke, a sandwich, and Pringles chips waiting for him.
All three grandchildren commented that their Grandmother is the kindest, most generous person we’ve ever known. She is patient and forgiving, understanding and strong, warm and inviting, wise and faithful.” Dennis added, “She’s the real deal.” A few days after the party, Brent greeted me at the door for an interview with his mother. I sat in Eleanor’s Grandmother’s rocking chair while Eleanor led me down memory lane. She recalled that between the ages of seven and ten, she would spend two weeks in the summer with her grandparents, Davey and Nettie Campbell. Davey had a country store near their home, and Eleanor and a cousin would spend the carefree days together roaming from house to store, to a creek nearby, and everywhere in between. When her grandmother stepped outside the house and called, “Dinner’s Ready,” they could hear her from wherever they were.
She met her dear husband, William, in the first grade. They would never have guessed they would be married. But love has a beautiful way of bringing two hearts together. They were engaged before he left for the service but were married on his first furlough. After the service, “Bill” wanted to open a restaurant. Everyone from Timberville remembers Garber’s Restaurant. He was a good cook but soon became the manager, enjoying the friendship of the patrons.
In 1947, Bill and Eleanor had a house built, the same home where she still lives. They loved to travel, but her favorite trip was with Bill when they went out West for a month. She was genuinely amazed at her first view of the Grand Canyon, at its vastness and beauty. It was not like any terrain she had ever seen. They often invited another couple on trips. She paused in the interview, then said thoughtfully, “At this age, all of my friends that Bill and I had together are all gone, and I miss them.”
Eleanor worked at the Farmers and Merchants Bank for many years. She retired at age 65 but continued to work part-time until she was 82.After Eleanor’s mother, Lelia Knupp, was widowed, she came to live with them. She was a tremendous help and was there when both sons, Brent and then Lowell, were born. Lelia lived to be in her 90s.
Early in the morning, Eleanor knew she would find her mother sitting in the room behind the kitchen, watching the birds outside. One day she asked, “Mom, why do you get up so early?” She replied, “I like to spend this quiet time thinking about things.” Then she added, “You know, like they say, ‘The early bird gets the worm.’” When Eleanor got older, she found herself doing the same thing and understood why her mother treasured that time.
After the party, when the family showed her a photo they had taken of her, Eleanor felt like she was looking at her dear mother’s face!