High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Margaret! Oldest Living Dell Rat Turns 101 Years Young Today!

Tom Anderson back with you today on this very special occasion. I am delighted to announce that our dear friend, Margaret Elizabeth Brown Schneider, affectionately known as The Oldest Living Dell Rat, is celebrating her 101st birthday today! Please join me in wishing Margaret a very happy birthday and many more. Here with a special tribute
to Margaret is my friend and Margaret's devoted daughter, Kathleen Mae Schneider.



Kathleen Mae 

"If I'd known I was gonna live this long,
I'd have taken a lot better care of myself."
-Mickey Mantle (1931-1995)

“Fourteen babies were born yesterday. 
Isn’t that something?”
-Margaret Brown Schneider (1912-)

By her bright window in view of a cloud of glorious yellow daffodils she planted years ago, my mother reads her morning paper and marvels at the list of York County births. Here, at this late stage of her life, she’s interested in tiny strangers who are just beginning theirs; she’s curious and concerned for others even as she lives with the daily challenges of her own old age.

Perhaps this is why Mother’s got Mickey beat by 37 years. You’ll never hear regrets from her because she’s pretty much satisfied with her life.

Everyone asks her the secrets to her longevity. They often suggest she must have good genes, but she’ll remind them that her parents and siblings didn’t live this long. She offers that she never “drank” or smoked and was passionate about mowing her lawn until she was 95.

Our Lawn Ranger in 2007

Was it physical fitness or a special diet? Only
if you count hard work and homemade meals. Did
she get through the tough times in her life with counseling? Negative. That’s what husband, family and friends were for. How about focusing on healing from tragic losses? That’s an easy one: helping others took her mind off her problems. Grudges
and enemies? Not on her radar.

Surely her faith and attitude toward life had something to do with it they guess. Now they’re talking! She agrees her simple faith in God and following the Bible, along with “the big ones” of forgiveness and the Golden Rule, served her well
for a century. Others are living one day at a time (recently she’ll tell you it’s an hour at a time), counting her many blessings and not “dwelling” on troubles.

Slight, and holding steady at her fighting weight of 114 pounds, Mother is seemingly made of pure determination and grit. She lost my father, the love of her life, 33 years ago and misses him terribly, but she doggedly perseveres. Calmly accepting her circumstances without bitterness or self-pity, she approaches life with gratitude for the great love she’s known and the time she’s been given. She amazes everyone she meets by still touching the world with goodness, grace and humor.

Here are some of Mother’s Rules
for Living beyond 100:

Sleep late in the morning. Look your best.
(She calls her daily makeup her “health”.)
Eat small simple meals and snacks (chocolate). Drink water and take vitamins. Read devotions
and nap frequently. Keep moving and exercise
your brain to keep it working. Help others and
let them know you care about them, maybe by
sending greeting cards faithfully to those you love, personally signed with a small note.

There are a few more. Watch the news to “know what’s going on in the world”. Feel grateful
for your life and satisfied where you are. Clip coupons to save money, but buy a few lottery tickets occasionally “to help senior citizens”. Give lots of hugs and say “thank you” and “I
love you” frequently and mean it. (She once told
a visiting repairman that she loved him because
“He looked like he needed it.”)

She takes little medicine and sleeps peacefully and soundly in the same bed where her three children were conceived and two were born. She wants to stay in the house my father built as long as, in her words, “I know where I am.”

And boy, does she ever! She keeps on top of the news despite poor hearing and eyesight. She is fascinated by the Internet and this blog, but still can’t grasp why she sees herself here. While her fifth grade education limits her understanding of such things as this or politics, she is an eager learner who gladly accepts our help. After seeing 18 American presidents come and go in her lifetime, she proudly voted for the first time in last November’s election.

Casting her first ballot at 100 years of age!

She relies on old fashioned ways to keep current too. We laugh at the bent middle slats in her window blinds – the ones right at her eye level – that prove she keeps tabs on her neighbors, and that her favorites on TV are Joyce Meyer’s “Enjoying Everyday Life” (a religious program)
and “Baggage” (a decidedly non-religious one)!

Mother’s beautiful hands that knew so much cooking, baking and sewing for our family remain steady enough to decorate cookies, do simple mending
(if someone threads the needle) and even decorate Easter eggs!

Role reversals can be pure fun. Once, she asked for her favorite chocolate after only eating half her dinner, prompting me to say, “Mother, I’ve been waiting 62 years to say this to you. Not until you eat your peas!!!”

Requesting we not make “a big fuss” on her birthday like last year, there will be a few gifts and a small party, surrounding her with the love and familiarity she likes best. She did confide to me just one other birthday wish: to push her old mower around her yard one more time! We know that we are the ones with the best gift, however.

Margaret and her “kids”

This amazing woman survived 101 winters, serious illnesses, painful losses, widowhood and old age. Having given us life, she still shows us how to live it. We are so blessed to have her with us - teaching us ways to love more fully and – in her last lesson to us – how to grow old.

Happy Birthday, Mother!

We love you so much!


  1. Kathleen,
    Your writing always makes me feel like I'm sitting in the room with you and your bring your Mother right into my heart. Truly Margaret has lived a wonderful life and is still bringing happiness and love to all those who are blessed to enter her realm! I enjoy any postings you share with us about the interesting life your Mother lived starting out in the 'Dell', and on through her present life with you and her loved ones! I do hope she gets to push her mower for her birthday!

    Tom, thank you again for introducing us to these two lovely ladies and I feel honored to be able to once again say, "Happy Birthday, Margaret...have the loveliest of birthdays!"

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 6:39 AM

      Good Morning Sush! How good it is of you to join Mother's party! Comments such as yours make her birthday extra special to be sure.

      I discovered this blog while searching for info about the Dell as I began writing my family's history - a really fortunate find! Tom created this miracle that enables Mother's story to get out on the "inner-net" (as she calls it) where it can inspire others.

      While she doesn't understand how that happens, she is proud and pleased all the same. So am I; and I'm incredibly grateful for his interest and lending his tech skills to this endeavor. What a gift he and readers like you are to Mother and our family!

      It is cloudy and cool here in central PA today, and Mother had to have a tooth extracted yesterday (It broke while flossing!), so perhaps we'll wait for another warmer day to have her venture outside with her mower. She really wants to do that.

      Thanks also for your kind "review" of my writing. It's encouraging to know I can connect to the world through my words. With Tom's editorial expertise and encouragement (along with advice on brevity, which I badly need to take!), who knows where this all will end?!

      I will read your comment to Mother later today and I'm sure she will beam with happiness! Thank you again for stopping by and sending your good wishes!

  2. I am almost without words, but touched so deeply that I have a few tears after reading this. Happy, happy birthday to our dear Margaret! I am going to be printing out her rules for Living Beyond 100 and sharing them.

    What an inspiration. Just reading this makes me want to be a better person. I hope you will submit this to a newspaper or magazine so that it can get an even wider readership.

    Tom, thank you, friend, for letting us know these wonderful women. You're pretty inspirational yourself!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 6:47 AM

      My goodness, Shelly! I hope those tears are happy ones! I know what you mean, though, as I shed them frequently when I spend time with Mother and write her story.

      She will be glad to know that she is a small part of the antidote to the hatred and cruelty she sees in the news every day. It's all any of us can do, isn't it?

      Thanks for reading and commenting so genuinely. I appreciate it very much and I know Mother will just shake her head in wonderment and smile when she hears your words!

  3. This is the most beautiful tribute to a much loved Mother and a remarkable woman by her equally amazing daughter. I feel so privileged to have been able to visit all the way from South Africa to wish you a wonderful 101st birthday, Margaret! Thank you for sharing your pearls of wisdom with the rest of the world through Tom's blog.

    Sending you love and a huge hug,

    Desiree xx

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 7:01 AM

      Hello Desiree! It's time to get out the map and mark South Africa for Mother to see how far her birthday wishes have traveled!

      I blushed when I read your compliments. Like Mother, I find our good fortune with this blogging experience hard to believe.

      As to Mother's pearls of wisdom, I'm reminded that nature's pearls are formed from trauma to the oyster. I think that's an appropriate analogy to Mother's life!

      I'll tell our friend Graham, a professor and pastor (His church is called Ubuntu.), about you, Desiree. He hails from Cape Town and talks frequently about it's beauty. He will be glad to know you're the second friend I have from his homeland!

      Hugs and love right back at you!

  4. Kathleen, I just started following this blog and I'm delighted that I'm here now to read your wonderful tribute to your Mom...what a remarkable woman she is! Happy Birthday Margaret! Margaret, you are an inspiration to me and I think all the reality stars in the world can't compare to your beauty, wisdom and desire to mow your own lawn! You remind me of my own Mother who will turn 87 in a few weeks..just a baby compared to your maturity! I hope you have a fabulous day and enjoy some great chocolate and that stroll with the lawn mower. Kathleen, well done good daughter! How lucky to still have your Mom with you as I'm sure you realize. P.S...My name is Kathleen also so that just shows how clever your Mom is too in naming her kiddos! Thanks Tom for letting us get to know Margaret and learning some wonderful words of wisdom.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 8:43 AM

      Dear Yaya (Kathleen!). Welcome! I am so glad you are part of our SDM&M community! This is a wonderful blog not just because of the music and cultural history it embodies. That alone would make it outstanding in its quality. It is also unique and extraordinary because of the caring and authentic people who are a part of it, starting with its creator, Tom, who respects everyone alike (even if they aren't always fans of some of the musical offerings...). He wisely encourages everyone who visits to be kind and compassionate and share their thoughts, so we feel like we have a great bunch of friends out there in the world who listen to us.

      I just read your comment to Mother and she gave a little laugh and said, "I'm pretty popular I guess!" This is from a lady who never had a birthday party as a child, and didn't go to school long enough to be part a "popular" group of kids. Thank you so much for brightening her day!

      We will think of you as you enjoy your mother too. Count every day with her as a gift to savor, take lots of pictures and write down her memories in her own words. You won't regret it. It's the best history in the world!

      When I was born, I apparently "looked Irish", so I was named Katheen. That's one story I've heard. Mother just says she "liked the name". Nothing too complicated from her, wouldn't you know?!

      Thank you again for your gracious comment and warm birthday wishes.

  5. Dear Margaret and Kathleen. Oh this post really touched my heart, all the way over here in England. May I wish you a very happy 101st birthday Margaret. What a truly amazing lady you are , in the true sense of the word. I am looking after my 3 yr old granddaughter today, but I just had to pop by to say hallo . I will pop by again this evening to comment on Kathleen's touching post to a very special mum. Hugs until then x

  6. Tom - what a lovely surprise to see our dear friend Desiree over here today, to help celebrate Margaret's birthday! I know how happy that would have made you!

    1. You are absolutely right, dear Thisisme. It was very sweet of Desiree to come out of blog retirement to offer birthday greetings to Margaret. Thank you very much for being here, too, my special friend, and that goes for all the other lovely people who are stopping by to comment. Margaret, Kathleen and I appreciate your kindness, all of you!

    2. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      Hi dear Diane!,
      Mother was really happy to hear your birthday wishes all the way from England! Thank you for sending them, especially when you are caring for your granddaughter. Mother did that too when she was younger; she took care of my brother's children from birth until they went to school and was also the family pet-sitter when any of us took a vacation.

      I look forward to hearing from you again when you have rested from running around after your beautiful little toddler!

      Thank you so much for coming by and wishing my Mum a happy 101st birthday!

  7. Kathleen, this tribute for your mother Margaret's birthday is not only interesting and entertaining, it's also very inspiring! Margaret has a wonderful personality and a great philosophy on life! It's the simple, little things in life that make her happy! We could all use a huge dose of "life lessons 101".

    For those of us who have met Margaret, this marvel of a woman, WE are the fortunate, blessed ones. She is a beautiful Legend that we all could learn a little from. Kathy, you write about your mother's world so eloquently. The love you share with her and her for you is so apparent. With the help of Tom (aka Shady), you are creating a wonderful keepsake for generations to come!

    Happy Birthday, Margaret!
    May you enjoy many, many more to come!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      Hello Toni. I'm so glad you restored my ancestral home and we met initially through your sharing the Dell house with my family and me. Now I'm glad to know you as a friend! Thank you for your comment. My intent was for people to get to know Mother as I do and be inspired by her life. I'm glad the post accomplishes that end for you and others.

      You're right about the simple things contributing to our happiness. Often Mother will say "People sometimes have everything, but they're not happy. They need to have peace within." She has a refrigerator magnet that reads, "The greatest things in life aren't things."

      She grew up not having a lot, but recognizing what's important - the love shared between people. That's how she raised us and it's been a very good code of life to follow, especially when life gets tough as it frequently does.

      Thank you for writing a birthday greeting to Mother and your caring comments. Thank you also for your card to her. It was one of the first she received. She remembered you and was very happy you remembered her on her special day.

      Hope we can talk again soon.

  8. Happy Birthday Margaret Its been one year today that I first met you and your daughter Kathleen but our lives have been joined for years by our love for that house on the hill that you knew as home and I known as the Shady Dell. From the time I was a young boy I could feel the magic of that house and this day prove"s that. Because of that house we have become friends with such great people as Tom and Toni and our DEll Rat friends around the world. I want to join all Dell Rats around the world and wish you the best birthday ever. Lots of love from your friend A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      Hello Greg! It's good to hear from you! As you said and this blog proves, the Shady Dell was magical in its heyday; it's still mystical in its ability to bring people together, not any longer through the snack bar or dance hall, but through friendship and good will. I'm proud to be friends with you and all Dell rats everywhere, whether they knew the Dell "in person" or not.

      Mother is happy to know so many people are remembering her and wishing her a happy birthday today. It means a lot to me too, since we aren't celebrating today with a huge party.

      Thank you so much from Mother, and me too, for your greeting and good wishes, Greg.

  9. Wishing Margaret a very happy birthday. I doubt if I follow all of her 100 rules, but I really enjoy eating the chocolate. A very heart warming story about a lovely person. Again have a happy and very enjoyable birthday. The grass in heaven can just keep waiting for someone like you to mow it!

    Dell Rat Jerre

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      Hi D.R. Jerre! Mother's rules aren't always easy, but they do work - at least for her! She believes that people have to do what works for them (as long as it's legal! LOL). When strange and sometimes rude or uncaring people come into her home or life, or one of us complains about someone, she often shakes her head and says, "We're all different." and lets it at that. She thinks a lot, but doesn't often criticize.

      That's a great "heaven's grass" comment. Just a few mornings ago she woke up in the middle of a dream in which she was mowing. She told me she was going back to sleep because she had "to finish the side lawn"!

      Thank you for your visit and comment. We appreciate it!

    2. Kathleen wrote: << Just a few mornings ago she woke up in the middle of a dream in which she was mowing. She told me she was going back to sleep because she had "to finish the side lawn"! >>

      LOL, I think your mother should consider a career on the stand-up comedy club circuit. She comes up with some classics! I think one of the most important keys to longevity is to maintain a sense of humor. Margaret surely does!

  10. What a beautiful tribute to your mother! As I read this I thought, "Margaret is an example to the world of a true Christian. Love flows through her to others." Happy Birthday, Margaret. My mother watches Joyce Meyers every day and I have read many of her books. She has helped me like no other person.

    I do hope you get to mow the lawn again! I wish you could come over and mow ours as no one here likes to do it! God bless.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      Good afternoon, Belle.
      You are very kind to send a happy birthday greeting to Mother. Thank you, thank you!

      Organized religion confuses Mother. Her upbringing, while moral and Christian, was spotty at best. In spite of that, she was my Sunday School growing up. She and my father made clear the differences between right and wrong conduct, without any punishment other than their disapproval if I strayed beyond the good. (Trust me, that was enough to keep me in line!) She read Bible stories and taught me to say my prayers every night. She stressed forgiving (even a neighborhood kid who made fun of and deliberately tore the new dress that Mother had sewn for me. I'm still having a hard time with that one!). She told me that I'm never alone because God is everywhere, as close as my heartbeat. I saw her always helping others and being kind to everyone. Now, she still teaches the best way - by example - how to trust God and love others. I'm pretty sure Jesus would approve!

      It's raining now, so mowing will have to wait for another day. We'll see that she gets to do it eventually, weather and her strength permitting. (Sorry - she isn't scheduling any other lawns right now...!)

  11. Well Kathleen and Margaret, the birthday girl, here I am again, feeling a little more rested. The more I read about your mum, the more humbled I feel. Tell her that it takes me almost two hours to cut all my lawn, so I could do with a bit of help!! Beautiful photo at the end of mum with her roses. In my last post, you will see some photos of the roses from my garden. I did smile at your comment telling mum not before she eats her peas.I can't believe that mum can still do simple mending and decorate cookies. What an inspiration she is to us all and I think it's marvellous how her story is reaching us all in different countries via the "inner-net"! Counting her blessings and not dwelling on troubles is such a great way of looking at life. I could go on and on, but it has been such a pleasure to meet you both and I so hope that Margaret is having a lovely birthday. Sending blessings to the both of you.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Good to hear from you again Diane! Mother's birthday was quiet, with a steady stream of visitors, flower deliveries, phone calls, cake and balloons. She obviously loves all this attention, but was tired from it all. Unfortunately it was too cold and rainy to mow.

      I took her to your website to see your roses. They are absolutely beautiful! Mother's favorite color is pink, so she really enjoyed the varieties you grow. The roses on either side of her porch used to encircle the roof, but have not been so prolific with blooms since the huge sycamores have shaded them.

      Mother said to tell you she thinks your grandchildren are really cute. You must be so very proud of them and your daughters as well.

      Happy belated birthday to you! We didn't realize yours was so close to Mother's. It does look like it was a day of sunshine for you, even if it was only on your gifts and cards!

      Thank you again for your kind comments and wishes. All the best to you and your family.

  12. I am so incredibly touched to read these words. This is advice that every person should read. I feel lucky to "know" Margaret through you Tom and of course Kathleen. What a woman Margaret is, I cannot even imagine the things she has seen and experienced in her lifetime but I know from what I've read that she is loved very much by all who know her and she is one special lady! Please pass on my congratulations to Margaret for another milestone birthday!

    Emma x

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 18, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      Thank you for stopping by, Emma! I read Mother your thoughtful comments and showed her your picture. She said she never met anyone with green eyes before and thought you are "very pretty".

      She has seen a lot, and I am beginning to understand just how much as I write her stories. I only wish I had started this years ago; there would have been even more to chronicle.

      We're grateful for your interest and kindness toward us. Thank you again!

  13. I'm a little bit late getting her Margaret but better late than never they say. Happy Birthday from Odie in NC and I recently had one too. Growing up I don't think I ever thought I would be 66 one day but I made it. Lost my Aunt Katie last September at 104 and she was a lot like you always wanting to be outside tending to her plants and yard. I sure miss her. I loved reading about your tips for life and wish I could sleep later but my internal clock wakes me up every morning at 5 AM. I will try to eat more chocolate and naps are my friend especially since I retired a year ago. I hope you never have to leave that house or your bed as I know how important being home was to my Aunt Katie and congratulations on casting that vote last election at the 100 year mark in your life. Again I wish you happy birthday and look forward to doing it again next year. God bless you.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      Hi, Odie! Happy Birthday to you too. Both you and Thisisme in England have birthdays close to Mother's!

      We are sorry to hear of Aunt Katie's passing. We know she was a very special and lovely lady and a big part of your life. From what you wrote about her, she kept vigorous and vital as long as she was able. People like her and my mother are examples to all of us because they never "throw in the towel" in life. They stay in the present moment and make the best of rough times and come out on the other side of tragedy.

      Thank you for being part of Mother's birthday celebration with your comment. I just read it to her and it elicited a big smile on her face. With all the horrific and brutal news on t.v. today, it's refreshing and reassuring to know there are still friends and good people such as you out there in the world. Let's do what we can to stick together in the face of all the nasty forces who gain the upper hand in our communities all too often!

  14. Happy Birthday Margaret!

    I apologize for the late wishes but I had some computer glitches to deal with. I'm here today though and can see from this beautiful blog post that you are so well loved and admired by so many people. That to me is the sign of you having lived a great life and making so many people happy. My late husband believed that that was how you're supposed to live out your life and he did too. I could only hope to have so many people love and care about me as you have Margaret! I hope your birthday was as beautiful as you are! Bless your beautiful heart and lively spirit! You're an inspiration!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 19, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      Hi, Barb!

      No apology needed. We're extending the celebration far past the 18th so Mother can appreciate all the good wishes coming her way in small "doses".

      Your very kind and thoughtful comments made Mother happy when I read them to her, although she just can't believe she's done anything to deserve all the attention. She said, "What did you tell me that you wrote about me?!" I've got to be careful because she is still capable of giving me a hard time if I told untruths. I assured her I was honest about both her life and my impressions of it, although I felt like I was about 5 years old again to be doubted! ("Fibbing" was always a no-no when I was growing up more than 60 years ago!)

      We agree that making people happy is one purpose of our lives about which we can be certain. For Mother, it came naturally and now the rewards of a life well-lived are her prize. It sounds like your late husband held a similar philosophy, and what you've just written to Mother is proof that you do as well!

      Thank you so much - from Mother and me!

  15. What a wonderful tribute by Kathleen to Margaret. My Mum would have been 104 this year but died in her early nineties - fit and well to the end. So she would have been of the same generation and I feel I know a lot about the events of Margaret's lifetime. I trust that Margaret will continue to live life to full - I loved the bit about the window blinds.
    Many good wishes to you, Margaret, from Liverpool in the UK.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 21, 2013 at 7:10 AM

      Good Morning, Scriptor!
      Our mothers' generation certainly produced some tough and resilient ladies, didn't it? It's one reason I'm writing about Margaret's life. I think all people, women and men alike, can benefit from her approach to life. I also enjoy writing, so it's a win/win situation for me.

      Thank you for reading my tribute to Mother and sharing your description of your Mum. Perhaps you have some equally fascinating stories she may have told you about her life.

      For me, writing my family history is part archeological dig and part mystery-solving. Occasionally some of the things I discover about my ancestors that Mother doesn't even know about are best left buried!

      Thank you again for your visit and comment. Mother enjoys learning about geography and I know she will be thrilled to put a new star on the world map showing she has another friend in England. I'm so pleased you dropped by!

  16. Hi Kathleen, Me too! I know I'm a week late-I've had power lines down at home, no internet, but I knew you were here! What a wonderful birthday greeting you gave your mother. You both compliment each other, and, are so fortunate to have each other to share these memories.

    Happy belated birthday Margaret! Bless you both!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 25, 2013 at 5:32 AM

      Welcome, Suzanne! We're glad you are not "power-less" any longer, and that you joined us for Mother's 101st birthday celebration. She is thrilled by every comment that is posted. Cards continue to arrive in the mail too, so her birthday is extended by even more caring and kindness.
      We are indeed blessed to be best friends as well as mother and daughter, as together we write the story of her life. Sharing it with others multiplies the blessing for us.
      Thank you for your comment. It is great to have you back and fully charged!

  17. What a wonderful tribute to your mother, Kathleen! I love her advice (and if what she says holds true, I'll live just as long as she has!)

    I love that your mom cast her first ballot last year. That is really cool and proves you're never too old to help shape the future.


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