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Former nurse dies at age 111

September 07, 1999|By DON AINES

QUINCY, Pa. - When Bina Myrtle Harbaugh entered this world, President Grover Cleveland was halfway through his first term.

The woman who may have been Franklin County's oldest resident died Wednesday at the Quincy United Methodist Home, 21 presidential administrations and 111 years after her birth on Dec. 1, 1887.

Woodrow Wilson was president when Harbaugh became a nurse during World War I, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was president when she retired in 1958. She had lived at the home since 1986, moving in when she was 98, according to Social Services Supervisor Sue Rosenberry.

"The last time I saw her was a year ago this summer," said her niece, Helen Fenton of Indianapolis. "I used to see her more often, but I'm no spring chicken, either," she said Friday.

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Fenton said her aunt had lived in Waynesboro, Pa., until she broke her ankle. Harbaugh had remained in good health until about the past year, according to Fenton.

"She and a group of friends knew the country was about to enter the war, and they knew there would be a need for nurses," Fenton said. She said her aunt entered what was then the Union Protestant Infirmary in Baltimore for student training in 1916 or 1917.

Rosenberry said Harbaugh may have been one of the first nursing graduates of what is now Union Memorial Hospital. "Some of the alumni had come to visit her in 1993," she said.

"She was the kind of person who loved to help people," Fenton said. Even after she retired, Fenton said her aunt did volunteer work at a Waynesboro doctor's office.

"She liked gold and she loved bridge," Fenton said of Harbaugh, who never married.

During her career, Harbaugh taught nursing at Union Memorial Hospital, was assistant superintendent at Hanover (Pa.) General Hospital and retired from Goucher College in Towson, Md., where she was on the health services staff.

Rosenberry said there are now two centenarians at the home. The older one is 102. Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Administrator Chris Bailey said at that nursing home in Chambersburg there are two people there that are more than 100. The older one is 104.

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts there will be 72,000 people over the age of 100 in 2000, up from 54,000 in 1995. Bailey said the number of people 85 and over is the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, and Pennsylvania ranks second behind Florida in the percentage of its population over that age.

Bailey said the county ranks fifth in the state in terms of the percentage of residents 85 years of age or older.

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