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Avalon Manor resident is 106

July 16, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer

"I imagine it was Cleveland," was Samuel Ford's answer when asked who was president of the United States when he was born.

Actually, the 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, was in the White House when Ford was born in Middleburg, Md., on July 14, 1891. The retired railroader, who has lived at Avalon Manor on Marsh Pike since 1988, turned 106 on Monday.

Ford was born into a world with no automobiles to speak of, no airplanes, and few telephones or other amenities we take for granted nowadays. In 1912, the year he turned old enough to vote, Woodrow Wilson won the presidential election. He qualified for Social Security near the end of Dwight D. Eisenhower's first term in 1956 and retired the next year as a cashier for American Railway Express.

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"I painted cars and engines. It was in the teens, I know that," Ford said Tuesday of his first job with the Western Maryland Railroad. His son Charles said he got that job in 1912.

Charles is one of eight children born to Ford and his late wife Zeluska. Six are still living, and range in age from 78-year-old Webster of Palm Bay, Fla., to 66-year-old Mary Boehmer of Wichita, Kan.

Five generations of his family were with Samuel Ford over the past weekend to mark his birthday.

Ford was joined Tuesday at the nursing home by sons Charles of Hagerstown and John of Martinsburg, W.Va., and daughters Mary Boehmer and Jane Diffenderfer of Hagerstown.

Jane Elliott, the assistant administrator of the Williamsport Nursing Home, said Ford is the oldest resident of any retirement community in Washington County.

Personnel at the Washington County Commission on Aging said they couldn't recall knowing of anyone older than Ford in the county, although it couldn't be ruled out.

Meg Cliber, Williamsport Nursing Home's director of Community Relations and Development, said there are from 22 to 24 people over the age of 100 in the various retirement communities across the county.

Williamsport Nursing Home is where National Centenarians' Day was first celebrated in 1994. The annual observance is on Sept. 22, but for convenience it will be held Sept. 23 at Williamsport.

This year, the guest speaker will be Milton Garland, a 102-year-old Franklin County, Pa., man who still works part-time at the Frick Co. in Waynesboro.

Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Their numbers have grown from 3,700 in 1940 to 61,000 this year. By 2020 there will be an estimated 214,000 people over age 100.

"I enjoy living here. It's a very nice place," Ford said of Avalon Manor. He said he likes to read, particularly Reader's Digest and the Bible.

"I read the entire Scripture, oh, about eight or 10 times," he said.

And how does Ford account for his longevity? His son John said his father always used to say, "Just don't worry. It's worry that kills you."

"Yes, that's right," his father said.

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