Dorothy LaFaw’s First 100 Years
by Cate Murway
A century ago stainless steel was invented, the Post Office began parcel post deliveries, the 1st pilot parachuted from an aircraft, and the 1st sedan-type car, the Hudson, went on display at the 13th Auto Show in NYC. The NY football Giants signed Jim Thorpe, the song “Malinda's Wedding Day” was #1, the 1st minimum wage law in the USA took effect in Oregon, Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as 28th president, the IRS began to levy and collect income taxes, Henry Ford instituted moving assembly lines and Dorothy Catherine “Dottie” [Boothroyd] LaFaw was born on July the 26th.
People often say they would like to live to be one hundred, but no ever really expects to, so what is Dottie’s secret beside the fact that she apparently takes what life has to give, and remains happy, content and optimistic?
“I never smoked or drank. That’s one of my main things. I get a different fruit delivered every month from Harry & David, a gift from my late husband, Howard’s son, Don.”
Dorothy was born in Philadephia to Charles, originally from Atlantic City, and Lidie [Sillman] Boothroyd. She was only 2 ½ years old when her father was killed by an express train, just three days before Christmas and her mother was pregnant with her brother Harold Albert.
Until the 1920s, Olney consisted of farmland and estates for the wealthy.
They moved to Olney, in with her maternal grandparents, Katie and George Sillman
and her two Uncles, Roy and Gussie. Uncle Roy was in the service, “no combat, he worked in the mess hall”. The three Sillman men all worked for the railroad.
Reflecting on her century of life, she shared her memoirs. These were the years before indoor plumbing. They used an outhouse and she climbed up to the third floor rooms with a ladder. Coal and ice deliveries kept their home warm and the food cool.
She recalls shopping in the corner stores and “there were always long lines of people. You had to have a card to buy groceries” during the depression. “We ate a lot of chicken with the yellow gravy.”
The clink and clank of glass bottles and the clop-clop of horse hooves were familiar sounds. The milk man showed up in his delivery wagon daily since the lack of good refrigeration meant it would quickly spoil. A dependable supply of big chunks of ice was delivered for the icebox. Coal was the principal source of central heat and was dropped down a shuttered chute into a bin in the cellar.
Gas lamps illuminated their home which did not have electricity and one needed to venture into the dark cellar to put a quarter in the coin-operated pre-pay meter [1903 patent by Sprague Meter Co.] to get natural gas-generated heat.
Her favorite toy was a jointed- limbed wooden doll from England that was clothed in a handmade dress sewn by her paternal Aunt Marie who lived in Ocean City.
She and her friends used their rich imaginations to make up street games including tag, “lay low sheepy” and “hide and seek”; games “we made up ourselves”. They cut out paper dolls from a book and she took lessons and played the piano in her grandparents’ home.
“Those times they didn’t wear slacks or pants.” Her Grandmother made her dresses and her favorite color is pink.
She has only one strong recollection of her father. He decorated her coach for a parade and “my dad was so mad that I didn’t win.”
She shares her birthday with comedienne/actress Gracie Allen, the wife of the late George Burns. Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen had been abandoned by her father when she was but five years old.
Dorothy attended Olney Elementary School and then enrolled in Frankford High for 1 ½ years. “I didn’t like school. It was so cold in the winter in the school. There was a register to heat the room.”
She needed working papers at the age of 16 to secure a position as a file clerk at the bank where her maternal Aunt Ellenor Boothroyd [1887- 1971] worked as a stenographer. The bank closed in the depression, along with all of the other banks, so she started to work for $.25 an hour with her mother in the Suburban Laundry Dry Cleaning, Inc. of Olney, owned by the Jennings family.
“I put sheets on a roller that was hot. I fed the sheets into a roller and they came out flat.”
Dottie operated the mangle, a mechanical laundry aid consisting of two rollers in a sturdy frame, used to press or flatten linens. The laundry was delivered in horse-drawn wagons.
Dottie has never driven a car nor has she ever ice skated, but she did roller skate. She roller skated with a friend “all the way to Market Street”, a bustling strip of retail establishments, the great family-run emporiums of Philadelphia that included Lit Brothers [expired in 1977], N. Snellenburg & Company [closed in 1963], Frank & Sedar [closed in 1953], Harry Blauner's [closed in 1958], Gimbels [founded in 1894], John Wanamaker's [invented the department store in 1861] and Strawbridge & Clothier, a Main Line tradition established in 1868 by the Quaker merchants Justus C. Strawbridge and Isaac H. Clothier.
Going downtown was a significant part of childhood. Men in starched shirts, women with hats and gloves, children with their hair combed and shoes polished - they all came. The family run Blauner’s department store “had real nice stuff”.
We have said good-bye to these gracious days of retailing.
How has life changed the most for her in the last 100 years?
“The inventions- the computer, the phone, the television and it was a long time before we had electric.”
Dorothy was introduced by a cousin, and she married Thomas John “Tom” Martin, a Kraft cheese deliveryman in the First Presbyterian Church of Olney. Dottie wore a nylon brocade wedding gown, borrowed a veil from a girlfriend, and her Sunday school teacher made her a crown. Their wedding songs were “I Love You Truly”, the first song written by a woman to sell one million copies of sheet music, and “Oh Promise Me”, a song written in 1887. “I like music with romantic words you can understand.” Perry Como is her top choice of singers.
The best gift she ever received was her engagement ring. Tom also presented her with a “Bird of Paradise” patterned silverware set.
They traveled to a honeymoon resort farm in the Poconos. “It was really nice and reasonable, we didn’t have much money.”
Tom developed cancer and died when he was only 35 years old.
Army veteran/ Sears, Roebuck and Co. product stocker, Sgt. Carl A. Chiolan lived next door to her mother. They married and had two children, electrical engineer/veteran EM2 Dennis C. Chiolan and Deborah D., [husband, Robert Hefferon], an International Education and Cross-cultural Training Consultant. Their granddaughter, Renee is a treasure and there are now three great-grandchildren. After she and Carl divorced, Dorothy remarried. Howard C. LaFaw was a butcher and, she smiled, “he sold me a piece of meat”. Dottie worked alongside him as the “wrapper”, labeling and weighing the customer’s orders. They moved to the Langhorne area where she loved their home and their acre of property. Widowed today, she has lived in the Grundy Towers for 22 years.
Carl passed away in 1993.
“I like Bristol. It’s a really great place and everyone is nice.”
Century celebrations are planned.
“I had a blast at Dot LaFaw's 100th birthday party today at St. Mary's in Trevose. Mrs. LaFaw's been a wife, a mother of two, a hard worker and a community volunteer throughout the years and is still going strong. Join me in wishing her a very happy 100th birthday!” Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick 7.25.13
Recommend a "Spotlight". E-mail email@example.com
Howard C. LaFaw; 79; Bristol, Bucks County, formerly Bethlehem & Catasauqua; died Friday, Neshaminy Manor Center, Doylestown; husband of Dorothy (Boothroyd) LaFaw; self-employed meat cutter, Catasauqua, 35 years until retiring; born Bethlehem; son of the late Charles & Viola (Miller) LaFaw. Survivors: wife; son Donald, Catasauqua; daughter, Virginia Vidumsky, Bethlehem; sister, Grace Ruppert, Allentown; stepson, Dennis Chiolan, Bensalem, Bucks County; stepdaughter, Deborah Hefferon, Washington, D.C.; 9 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren. Molden Funeral Chapel, Bristol. [obituary, The Morning Call, Allentown, PA, Monday, April 19, 1993
Carl A. Chiolan, age 85, of 74 Distillery Hill Road, Benton, died at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005, at the Gesinger Medical Center, Danville, where he was a patient for 10 days. He was in failing health since May.
Carl was born in Philadelphia on Jan.22, 1920, a son of the late Lazarus and Lucretia (Arion) Chiolan. He resided in the Benton area for 15 years and previously lived in Bucks County. He was a graduate of Olney High School, Philadelphia.
He was employed by the U.S. Postal Service for over 20 years, retiring in 1971. At the time of his retirement, he was the manager of the Fort Washington Regional Service Center. After moving to Benton, Carl and his wife established the Red Poppy Bed and Breakfast, which they opearted for 10 years.
Carl served with the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in England. He was discharged with the rank of sergeant. He was a member of Fort Ricketts Post 8317, VFW, Benton, and American Legion Post 495, Shickshinny.
He was an accoplished woodworker.
Surviving are his wife, the former Madeleine A. Turgeon, with whom he celebrated a 34th wedding anniversary on Aug. 26. Also surviving are a son, Dennis C. Chiolan, Benton; a daughter, Deborah D., wife of Robert Hefferson, Washington D.C.; a stepdaughter, Colleen A., wife of George Hartley, Shickshinny; three stepsons: Michael R. Whalen and his wife, Sheila, Ventura, Calif.; Mark B. Whalen and Mitchell B. Whalen, both of Benton.
He is also survived by a granddaughter, Renee G., wife of John Brown, Catawissa; and 11 stepchildren: George Hartley, Levittown; Tracy Hartley, Benton, Aaron Hartley, Shickshinny; Kristal Hartley, Ventura, Calif.; Madelyn Whalen, Ventura, Calif.; Jennifer Whalen, Feasterville; Justine Whalen, Benton; Jeremy Whalen, Benton; Brianna Whalen, Benton; and several nieces and nephews. He was the last of his immediate family.
Private services will be Thursday from the Dean W. Kriner Inc. Funeral Home, Benton, with David I. Bronson, pastor of Cambra Christian Church, officiating. Interment will be in Raven Creek Cemetery with miliary honors. There are no calling hours. Memorials may be sent to the American Heart Associatoin, 1704 Warren Ave., Williamsport, PA 17701.
St. Mary program helps keep the elderly independent
By Christian Menno Staff writer | Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013 5:30 am
Do not underestimate Dorothy LaFaw.
Though she may have turned 100 years old Friday, her strength is undeniable.
She still has a vice-grip handshake and she loves to show it off and see the look
of shock on the receiver’s face.
But it is her inner strength that truly makes her remarkable.
The centenarian continues to live on her own in her Bristol apartment.
Her independence, though, is maintained with some help.
LaFaw is a participant in St. Mary Medical Center’s LIFE program,
or Living Independently For Elders.
Through LIFE, which is paid for through Medicare and Medicaid,
LaFaw receives comprehensive care from aides and nurses that visit her home
on a daily basis. She’s also picked up by van and driven to
the LIFE Center on Northgate Drive in Bensalem four times a week.
At the center, participants in the program can receive a wide range of specialized
medical care such as cardiology, dental work and psychiatry.
There is also a room dedicated to physical therapy.
But beyond the medical aspects of LIFE, it is the social side of the center
that LaFaw says she likes most.
“I think it’s wonderful here and everyone is so nice and kind and great to be with,” she said Friday during a special birthday party at the center. She added that her favorite activities are the modified versions of basketball and soccer.
The center recently welcomed in a group of Mummers to entertain the seniors. Special sessions of pet therapy also serve to make each day unique.
“I like to do all the things they have here,” LaFaw said. “My goal was to live to be 100, and I got there. And it’s been wonderful.”
According to Carol Benderson-Lighter, one of the center’s social workers, LaFaw had been in a nursing home before her family found out about the program.
“She gets all of her medical care and medications delivered right to her apartment,” Benderson-Lighter said. “We keep in touch with Dot’s family in Washington, D.C. every day, so it works out nice. The independence helps with everything, particularly for someone like Dot who is cognitively intact. This is the most holistic program I have ever worked in.”
LaFaw’s daughter Debbie Hefferon and her husband, Bob, drove up to the center for the shindig, which was also attended by Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, and state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-18.
During a toast to her mom, Hefferon first thanked all the participants and staff members at the center.
“Every one of you has, I think, been the greatest gift that my mother has received,” she said. “You have kept her happy and well.”
Eighty-nine-year-old Juanita Benson was one of the original seven participants in LIFE when it first opened in 2010. It now serves 188 over-55-year-olds.
“This place means the world to me,” she said Friday as she enjoyed her slice of birthday cake. “I don’t think I’d be here today if it wasn’t for St. Mary.”
Dot serves as a role model for the rest of the folks that are transported to the center throughout the week, said Benson, who is a member of LIFE’s Scrabble team.
“She’s kind and generous and very active and she never forgets your name,” Benson added.
“The social network here is really strong,” said outreach and enrollment manager Erin Williams. “People love coming here and meeting new people. We had a crocheting group, for instance, that had to be expanded because we had so many people that wanted to join.”
Benson said that whenever she sees a new face, she makes it a point to welcome them into the group.
Because no one resides permanently at the center, Williams said there are usually about 80 participants there each day, depending on their schedules.
“In Pennsylvania, there are more programs like this than in any other state,” she added.
Added Fitzpatrick, “It’s what we want for our parents; it’s what we want for ourselves; it’s what we want for our community — to be able to be independent…”
For more information about LIFE St. Mary call 267-991-7600 or visit www.LIFEStMary.org.