Hagerstown woman marks 100th birthday

August 12, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Leola Shives Ott celebrated her 100th birthday with 39 family members at a Washington County Regional Park pavilion on her actual birthday.

"It was a wonderful day, a wonderful party," Ott said.

She was born on June 27, 1909, the youngest of Thomas and Laura Shives' six children. All lived to be at least 100.

Ott credited "hard work and good home cooking" for their longevity.

The siblings shared a close bond throughout their lives. Ott is the only one still living.

She currently alternates living with two of her daughters, Donna Trovinger and Jane Potts, both of Hagerstown.

Ott's life is one for the local history books. She was born and raised at Lock House No. 54 on the C&O Canal in Hancock.

Her childhood memories include helping tend the locks. Winter meant ice skating on the frozen canal and summer was a time for swimming in the canal and the Potomac River.


Ott attended high school in Hancock, but had to drop out one month before she would have graduated to care for her mother.

A job working in the kitchen of The Charles Hotel for $10 a week brought Ott to Hagerstown in 1929. She was at the Hagerstown Fair when she met John Ott of Shippensburg, Pa., who was seven years her senior.

They married in 1932 and moved to a small house owned by the C&O Canal in Hancock. John Ott worked as a machinist for Pangborn Corp. until his retirement at age 65. He died in 1981.

Leola Ott also worked at Woolworth's and Eakle's Drugstore.

A flood in 1936 forced the Otts to move. They lived in Hancock for nine more years, then moved to Hagerstown. They paid $10 for a 1-acre lot on Maugans Avenue, which at the time was at the corner of Maugans Avenue and Roland Road, Potts said.

They built their house for $2,500 and Leola Ott lived there until 2003 when the state bought it to widen Maugans Avenue.

Ott has been a member of St. John's Lutheran Church for more than 60 years, Potts said.

Ott has three children, six grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. She answers to Mawmaw, Nanny and Grandma, Ott said.

"I don't feel any older. I'm starting over again, now. I've hit 100 and now I'm starting the one-year roll. I'm going to stay around as long as I can, but that's not up to me," Ott said.

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