Esther Pfiel remembers the first Great Depression.
Her father lost his job. Everyone in the family had to work. The area experienced widespread poverty.
Pfiel’s not sure if we are witnessing a second depression.
“You hear one thing on one station and it says we are,” she said. “But then you here (President George) Bush on another station, and he says something else.”
Irrespective of the economy, however, one thing is for sure: Esther Pfiel has witnessed a lot.
As the oldest woman in Margaretta Township — she turned 100 years old Sunday — Pfiel has seen the advent of the automobile, airplanes, television and 18 different presidents, all in her lifetime.
She’s the oldest member of Grace Lutheran Church in Castalia — she’s been a member “since the day I was born,” she joked — and she remembers when her household first got electricity.
She was especially fond of that invention.
“What a great thing that was,” she said. “No more oil lamps. ... Those coal-oil lamps were a real pain to clean.”
Pfiel is still as sharp as ever. She lives by herself in the house where she grew up. Until a few years ago, she drove, read books and did crossword puzzles.
Although poor eyesight halted her crossword puzzle hobby, she just got “good reports” last week from two doctors.
So what’s the secret to her longevity?
“When people ask me what I attribute it to, I tell them hard work and the grace of God,” she said. “And I honestly believe that.”
Genetics help too. Pfiel’s father lived to two weeks shy of his 101st birthday. Her sister, Kathryn, recently turned 95.
But Pfiel said even after she retired, she continued working both her body and mind to stay healthy.
She worked for 35 years at Elmer Borchardt Construction before she retired, and worked at the Erie County Board of Elections and the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation before that. After retiring, she kept busy tending to the substantial land on her property.
She has scores of stories from generations past, about milk being delivered to soldiers’ homes on covered wagons, and Margaretta being a “a town with more saloons than anything” when she first arrived.
“Kind of a rough town,” she recalled.
And she said she has saved everything — important or not — to keep records of all those stories.
“Someday they’ll have a big bonfire to burn it all,” she said. “But I guess I’ll be around a few more years.”