Good for another 100,000 miles

Mary Louise Correal Springer's many pursuits over the years kept her fit

  • Mary Correal Springer is 100 years old. She lives at Michaux Manor in Fayetteville, Pa.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Editor's note: In February, we asked readers to tell us about some of our oldest residents of the Tri-State area. We received about a dozen nominations and have profiled six of the centenarians. The stories began Sunday and continue through Wednesday.

FAYETTEVILLE, PA. -- "Mom, I got a second job," a young Cliff Springer told his mother.

"Two? That's it? Only two?" was her reply.

As one who peddled vegetables and newspapersas agirl, supported five brothers as a young woman, and later juggled three or more jobs at a time even as she raised her son, Mary Louise Correal Springer was not all that impressed.

The daughter of Italian immigrants, Mary was born May 26, 1909, and raised in the coal mining town of Masontown, Pa. Her parents, Giuseppe and Rose, instilled in her a work ethic that she purposed to live out and pass on.

Mary, a 100-year-old resident of Michaux Manor in Fayetteville, Pa., recalls her labors throughout the years. She was a hospital and political volunteer. She owned properties, and worked in the food industry, county government and education.


Mary's father was a stone mason who built coke ovens during the boom of the coal mining industry. Mary said he was industrious and wise with his money.

"He made enough to buy three houses. Someone said to him, 'You must be rich, buying three houses.' He told them, 'It's not your business. It's my business,'" Mary said.

Mary recalls going with her father to collect monthly payment for the properties.

"We'd take the streetcar, then we'd buy food and clothes. He gave us the best of care," Mary said. "Then he'd say, 'Mary, you and I are going to eat at a restaurant.'"

Mary said she was a diligent student.

"Oh, I loved all the subjects. I liked to know things and I beat all the doctors' kids," she said.

While she was still in elementary school, her father died. As the oldest child, Mary helped her mother raise her five brothers. She remembers going to the well for water to wash clothes on the washboard. She sold vegetables from the family garden, peddled newspapers in nearby Grays Landing, Pa., and worked at a restaurant.

"On payday, I'd buy groceries and bring them home to mother," she said.

She encouraged each of her brothers to work hard and go to college. Most of them became educators. Though they were younger than Mary, all have died except Donald Correal, 88.

When she was in her mid-30s, Mary turned her attention to a red-haired, blue-eyed Englishman named Clifford Springer. Cliff owned a gas station a block away from the restaurant where Mary cooked. She would walk by the station to catch a streetcar.

"When I'd pass by,he would tell people, 'This is my girlfriend. I'm gonna marry her,'" Mary said.

In 1943, he did just that. They were married for 60 years, until Cliff died in 2004.

"When I met my husband was the best day of my life," Mary said.

Their son, Cliff Springer, 63, of Shippensburg, owns Benjamin Art Gallery in Hagerstown. He, like his uncles, went to college and had a career in education. His son, Lee Springer, 34, lives in Washington, D.C., and is Mary's only grandchild.

Cliff remembers his mother working as the matron at a home for juvenile delinquents for more than a decade while he was a boy.

"We lived in one side of the house, (the juvenile delinquents) lived in the other. There were usually six or eight, up to 12 kids. Mom saw it as a way of augmenting the family income. She was such a go-getter," Cliff said.

Feistiness and graciousness embody Mary's stories. In the 1960s, she planned a trip to Italy, and a relative questioned the expense.

"What the h--- are you talking about? You tend your own business. I have my own money," she said she told him, her Italian accent coloring the story.

While there, Mary became friends with a young woman who admired her clothes. So Mary wore one dress home and gave the rest to the girl.

"I gave them to her because she liked them and she couldn't buy them. It was so expensive to have to pay a big price for American clothes," she said.

Though she will be 101 on May 26, Mary is casual about her age.

"I'm a hundred and some," she said nonchalantly.

Marydoesn't claim to have the secret to longevity, but Cliff suspects that his mother's many pursuits over the years helped keep her mentally and physically fit. While working as a teacher's aide at age 65, she attended college at Pennsylvania State University. She managed rental properties until she moved in with Cliff seven years ago.

Today, her health is good, her spirit is robust, and she takes no medication other than eye drops. She likes flowers and enjoys going out with her son. At her recent annual physical, Mary's doctor jotted this on her examination form:

"Good for another 100,000 miles."

Centenarian Mary Correal Springer

1. What were the Roaring '20s like and what should we know about them?

"Everybody smoked Camels in those days. Everybody I run around with says, 'Take a taste. You'll like it.' I smoked some, not much," Mary said.

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