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At 103, Waynesboro woman has witnessed parts of three centuries

January 01, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Rhoda Bauer, 103, has now seen parts of three centuries - from the same house near Waynesboro.

Bauer was born Aug. 27, 1896 - toward the end of President Grover Cleveland's second term - in the house she still lives in on Mentzer Gap Road outside Waynesboro. Her father was born in the same house in 1864.

"Why didn't I ever move? This place is like a garden spot to me," she said. "My father wouldn't have sold it for any money."

She never remembers being lonely in her home.

"I always felt satisfied. Even when I go on a drive for a day, when I get home and open my kitchen door I think it's just heavenly. That's my feelings about this house," she said.

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Bauer's life has always revolved around her home. She remembers the one time in 1916 when she had to leave it.

The original house was built of log construction in 1814, she said. The family decided to cover it over with bricks 102 years later. The interior was remodeled at the same time so the family had to move out during construction.

"The inside didn't always look like it does now," she said, pointing out an 80-year-old renovation project with a wave of her hand.

She even remembers about the bricks.

"They came from East Berlin (Pa.)," Bauer said. "They brought them here by rail freight and left them at the Nunnery station. Our neighbor had a farm with a four-horse team, and he brought the bricks to the house."

Bauer married only once, in 1970, when she was 73. The marriage didn't last long.

"I divorced him two years later," she said.

Her maiden name is Gossert, but she never changed it back.

She has no children and never learned to drive.

Bauer remembers the few jobs she had outside her home in area textile mills.

"I sewed buttons at the Wayne Manufacturing Co. for about a year, then I worked for a while in the knitting mill," she said.

Bauer writes a lot of letters, to friends and to the few relatives she has left.

"I still get cards and letters from her," said Hettie Flasher, her neighbor down the road. Flasher, 75, has known Rhoda all of her life.

"I'm her Sunday school teacher," Flasher said.

Bauer has been a lifelong member of Blue Rock United Brethren Church.

Flasher said Bauer still keeps in touch with old friends and makes regular visits to a 96-year-old neighbor.

Bauer said her life's passion has always been cooking. The mincemeat pie recipe her mother passed down is a favorite.

In the early years she cooked and baked on a big wood-fed iron cook stove. There's a large photo of her brother sitting by it in his waning years.

"I took care of him after he got sick for a long time," Bauer said.

She got her diploma came from the one-room Blue Rock School.

"We had law and order back then," she recalled. "We used to have a prayer service too.

"Nowadays they've done away with God in the schools. They don't even mention his name. I think that's ridiculous," she said.

Bauer is bent over with age some, but still manages to stand arrow straight when guests come in. She does her own cooking, and her own grocery shopping.

"She pushes her cart around the store and goes through the checkout by herself," Flasher said.

Her health is good except for some bothersome arthritis in her upper legs, she said.

Highlights of Bauer's life after more than a century of living are electricity and all the new appliances that came with it. Her favorite is the refrigerator.

"We didn't need an ice box anymore," she said.

She thinks the 20th century's greatest technological advance was "no-iron clothes. To me that's the most important thing that ever happened."

Her favorite music is opera.

"I watched 'The Marriage of Figaro' last night on television," she said. "It was wonderful, but I did fall asleep on it after a while.

"I also like Lawrence Welk. He has good music."

Bauer said she hasn't figured out why she has lived so long.

"Different people ask me that all the time," she said. "I don't know what to tell them. I just live one day at a time. I have no idea why I'm living this long."

Bauer is philosophical about the new century as well.

"I won't have to look forward to it very much," she said. "At my age life is very uncertain."

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