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Nearly 100, Seibert's long life has been filled with living

November 16, 2006|by JANET HEIM

In her lifetime, Ethel Seibert was married to a World War I veteran, struggled through the Depression after losing her job and had three brothers who served in World War II and returned home.

As she counts down the days until her 100th birthday on Saturday, Nov. 18, Seibert shared some of the events that shaped her life. She said she has always been a hard worker and liked to be active, until osteoarthritis slowed her down.

A resident of Coffman Nursing Home for the past few years, Seibert said she was born in Meadow Mountain, Md., in Garrett County, the oldest of 10 children. She had seven brothers and two sisters; only the sisters remain.

Her family moved to a farm in the same county when she was 4. She was 17 when all but 50 acres of the farm were purchased for the development of Deep Creek Lake. Later, some of the property was used to build Holy Cross Camp, a Catholic camp.

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Seibert remembers walking 2-1/2 miles each way to high school, although she only attended for a few months.

In 1928, Seibert married Merrill Henneberger, who was from Hagerstown. They met while he was in Oakland, Md., and after they got married, lived on Jefferson Boulevard in Hagerstown.

She took a business course in Hagerstown for further training. It wasn't long before she realized that wasn't for her.

"I didn't want to spend my life on my rear," said Seibert, who used to belong to the Appalachian Trail Club.

Merrill Henneberger, a veteran who was poisoned with mustard gas in World War I, got the flu a month after their wedding and died a year later.

Ethel was introduced to Harry Seibert by a girlfriend and the couple married in 1939. Harry Seibert worked at Fairchild and sold insurance for Erie Insurance.

Seibert worked at the Hotel Alexander coffee shop, then worked at Fleshers and Leiters stores when they needed help. Leiters was the first to offer her a permanent job and she worked there until her only child was born.

Daughter Ethel "Nikki" Seibert was born in 1941. The family moved around, living in Hagerstown, a farm in Boonsboro, then Funkstown.

Nikki contracted typhoid fever when she was six and Ethel took her daughter back to Garrett County for second through fourth grade. They then moved to Accident, Md.

Harry Seibert stayed in Hagerstown and the couple eventually divorced.

As a single mother, Seibert worked a variety of jobs, from housekeeping to cafeteria manager to bakery employee to retail jobs. She eventually moved back to Hagerstown, where she lived on Pangborn Boulevard and worked at the downtown Hagerstown McCrory's until she was 75.

Seibert moved to West Virginia to be near Nikki and her husband, moving back to Hagerstown after Nikki's husband died. Her last home was on Indian Cottage Drive, near the back entrance to Volvo Powertrain.

Seibert's family - four grandchildren and 10 grandchildren - used to look forward to her cooking. Her daughter, Nikki Perkins, said she's known for her cranberry nut bread and fruitcake.

Perkins, who lives in Bridgeport, W.Va., said her mother would make fruitcake every year for years and that she cracked the nuts herself. The process took several months and Ethel's secret was to soak the fruit in whiskey overnight, then once baked, the fruitcakes were wrapped in wine-soaked cloths with apple quarters for extra moistness.

Seibert also liked flowers and working in her garden, Perkins said.

Over the years, Seibert has been a member of St. Paul's Methodist and St. John's Lutheran Church, both in Hagerstown.

About 40 family members and friends will gather Sunday for a party in Seibert's honor. She will wear a new outfit to the party, with matching beads.

When asked about her long life, Seibert shrugs her shoulders.

"I never thought about it. I always said I'd live until I die," she quipped.

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