Amazing Senior, Elizabeth Hertling

Senior Online Magazine Amazing Senior Elizabeth Hertling

Each birthday is a special event, a day to be remembered and celebrated. For Elizabeth Cummings Hertling and those who know her, several recent birthdays have been especially memorable. Two years ago, the city of Orlando sent a delegation of firemen to help her celebrate. The mayor also showed up. After all, turning one hundred years old does not happen that often. Mind you, that was two years ago. By the time this article is in print, Elizabeth will have celebrated birthday number 102!

There are many reasons for selecting a person as one of the OurSenior’s “Amazing Seniors.” If you could talk to this 100+ year old lady, you would certainly agree that she qualifies. At 102, Elizabeth Hertling’s mind and expressiveness are those of a vital, young adult. She remembers her youth, her employers, her travels in the U.S. and Europe. She clearly remembers the world into which she was born and how very different it was from today.

She was born 102 years ago in the town of Charleston, West Virginia. Charleston was West Virginia’s capital and the largest city in the state, but it was still a relatively small town. At an early age, her mother and father divorced, and she was raised by her mother. Asked what she remembered about her childhood, she had two comments- “We were poor” and “I never want to see another snowflake.”

Elizabeth is a member of that group we call “The Greatest Generation,” the people who would not allow adverse circumstances to keep them down or discourage them. At the age of 18, she got her first job working at the S. S. Kresge & Co. store in Charleston. Kresge stores were open 9 to 5 on weekdays and 9 to 9 on Saturdays. That made a 52-hour week for which she earned $9.95! Elizabeth describes herself as one of those people who would try anything, so she quickly adapted when asked to work at the hardware counter. In those days, it was an unusual place to find a woman working.

Her hard work and talent with figures were recognized. She was promoted to the office and bookkeeping department where she earned $17 a week. All the time, she was working to improve herself. On scholarship, she took courses at Kanawha College and the University of Charleston. A big part of her life would be spent in administrative and accounting fields, often for America’s military.

Surely, many days of work and study have blended together in her memories of Charleston, but some recollections stand out. Seniors may recall “paper boys” who would stand on street corners shouting out headlines and selling local newspapers. That was how she learned about the attack at Pearl Harbor after coming out of a movie theatre. Four years later, she was watching an impromptu parade celebration of V.E. Day when the parade Marshall recruited her into the march, handed her his baton, and let her lead the way.

Like many members of that “Greatest Generation,” Elizabeth was not satisfied staying at home forever. Her attitude has always been “Do what you want. If you don’t like it at first, try it anyway!” One day she saw a copy of a book you may recall, “Fodors Europe on $10 a Day.” That gave her the desire to travel, and she took off for Europe with no partner or traveling companion and visited ten countries in 31 days. Elizabeth was always ready for adventure!

When she returned, she resumed her career, often working in military related jobs. One of those was in Camp Lejeune, where she made the acquaintance of General Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. America recalls General Puller as a fierce fighting man, but Elizabeth remembers his devotion to family.

In her travels and adventures, she found time to marry three times, outliving each of her husbands. She encountered several serious health problems, including a cancer that may have been related the pollution found in Camp Lejeune drinking water. Each time, she fought off the disease and seemed to go on and on. She did give up driving last year, but she has kept her Prius just in case. For years, she was known as the “Bridge Lady” at Orlando’s Beardall Senior Center, where she organized the bridge games and tournaments.

Elizabeth is looking forward to more good years. After all she had aunts who lived to be 105 and 108. Most of all, she is spunky, alert, and full of fun! When asked about her secret to longevity, she did not name any food, exercise, or health product. She repeated her advice, “Do what you want. If you don’t like it at first, try it anyway. You can change it when you get old.”

Here’s to you, Elizabeth Hertling. You truly deserve the title, “Amazing Senior.”