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

Friday, April 25, 2014

...and Here She is, the Birthday Girl... 102 Years and Another Happy Easter!

Margaret Elizabeth Brown Schneider
"The Oldest Living Dell Rat"
Age 102

I am delighted to welcome back my friend and guest blogger Kathleen Mae Schneider who has dropped by to show us pictures taken during the four day Easter weekend celebration of her mother Margaret Brown Schneider's 102nd birthday.

April 18-21, 2014

The Party of 

the Century + 2 

Kathleen Mae 

   How on earth do you plan a birthday party for someone who is 102 years old, basically very humble and shy, has challenges because of her age, and specifically asked that a "fuss" not be made over her special day? We love her too much to comply with her wish to keep her birthday quiet, so we found ways to make her day extra special with lots of surprises, laughter and celebration that she could appreciate. Here is proof!

   Before our family party could get underway, neighbor Bob Jennings arrived with flowers and chocolates for Mother and we made sure she was outside on her porch for his other surprise that would soon arrive.

   Bob told some of his friends about Mother's birthday and with loud roars they soon parked
their Harleys in front of Mother's house to pay their respects.

   (Below) Mother enjoyed her diamond-shaped birthday cake, specially made for her by a friend.

   The cake was lit by eleven candles - one for each ten years of Mother's life plus one for the new decade just beginning.

   Kate, who along with her parents came all the way from California for the party, accompanied herself on her guitar for her Great Grandma.

   Several rowdy rounds of Bingo followed with intense competition for fantastic prizes.

   By the end of the day of Mother's birthday party, her house was filled with cards, flowers, and gifts, including a large container of cheese balls!

Shady Dell Alumni Day
Pictures provided by Toni Deroche

   The celebration wasn't over however, because our special Shady Dell friends Toni Deroche (who saved Mother's childhood home) and Greg "A Dell Rat All Ways" Gulden paid us a visit the day after Easter, bringing more flowers, gifts and lots of love!

Former Shady Dell owner Toni Deroche and Margaret

Kathleen Mae Schneider and mother Margaret

Toni Deroche, Kathleen and Margaret

Margaret received a block of
lottery tickets from Toni Deroche.

Greg "A Dell Rat All Ways" Gulden, Kathleen and Margaret

   It was a rare event to have almost all of
our family and many friends gather together for Mother's birthday. We could tell that she loved every minute of it. We did too, and we know that this birthday was one that will never be forgotten by any of us.

   This portrait showing Mother at the age of 102, surrounded by her growing family, is nothing short of a miracle. Here she is, still teaching us how to live and to love!

With love to Mother and to All,

Margaret's Birthday, Age 102
Chapter 7: The Demise of the Dell, Pt. 2 Fighting City Hall
Chapter 7: The Demise of the Dell, Pt. 1 Harvest of Tears
Chapter 6: The Dream Becomes a Nightmare
Winter Count: Margaret's 2013 Birthday
Happy Birthday, Margaret! Oldest Living Dell Rat Turns 101
Chapter 5: Home Sweet Dell
Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 2: Margaret's Pig Tale
Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 1: Hill and Dell
Chapter 3: The House on the Hill 
Chapter 2: Margaret is Born...and So Is the Dell 
Chapter 1: The Beauty and the Butcher
Introduction: My Shady Dell "Roots"
Margaret's Birthday


  1. This is another priceless collection of images, dear Kathleen. You and Mother both look springtime fresh as if you both spent the winter lazily hibernating in a cozy den. To look at these pictures one would never guess that you faced one difficult challenge after another. It took a little luck and a lot of love and hard work for you and your family to make it through the harsh winter and arrive at this fine day.

    The pictures of the biker tribute for Mother are among the most inspiring I have ever seen. They demolish stereotypes and remind us that love comes in all shapes and sizes. What the world needs now... is more of what you see here.

    I was also struck by the picture of Kate singing and playing guitar for Mother. I didn't recognize her at first because she looks so much older now. When I made the connection in my mind my thoughts returned to the day Kate and Samantha posed for that surreal picture in the Shady Dell's attic.

    I am also proud to display the pictures contributed by former Dell owner Toni Deroche taken on "Shady Dell Alumni Day" when she and another Dell V.I.P., Greg Gulden, visited Mother. In terms of their importance to Shady Dell history, these pictures, showing four of the greatest Dell dignitaries (you, Mother, Toni and Greg) in the same room at the same time, are equivalent to the iconic images taken when heads of state met at the Yalta Conference.

    I am thrilled to see mother Margeret looking well, interacting with friends and family, enthusiastically scratching off her lottery tickets and enjoying her bingo. She is still filled with childlike glee and mischief and that goes a long way toward explaining why we are able to celebrate her 102nd birthday.

    God bless you, Margaret.
    God bless you, Kathleen.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 25, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      Thanks, Tom, for the chance to share Mother's birthday happiness with your readers.

      We do feel victorious over this past winter's illnesses and accidents. All were potentially treacherous for someone as old as Mother. Looks must be deceiving though, because it was certainly no lazy hibernation that we endured!

      The Harley riders had hearts of gold! They were thoroughly charmed when Mother gave them their party favors - motorcycle-shaped chocolates. It was especially sweet to see one of them, (on the far left in the picture) who further broke those stereotypes you mentioned. He was Mother's night nurse when she was hospitalized in February!

      Kate is a tall and graceful teenager now. She is a member of a Performing Arts class at school and started guitar lessons a few months ago, but we think she is already very good. She and Samantha are good buddies and it was gratifying two years ago to have seen them together where their great-grandmother once played as a child. (Thanks, Toni!) We are very proud of them, and all Mother's grand- and great-grandkids too.

      I don't know if Toni, Greg and I have the same prestige as FDR, Stalin and Churchill, but we really do share a warm bond of friendship through the Dell. Mother and I are always honored when they visit, and we have a great time catching up on our lives. Greg showed us pictures from his recent trip to Bermuda this visit. Mother and I got a kick out of seeing him swimming with dolphins.

      Is spite of poor hearing and eyesight, Mother is always up for a game of Bingo. She kept up with the caller under her own power, obviously anxious to win one of the chocolate prizes!

      Mother and I are thrilled by this post! Seeing ourselves on the web is just another way in which God blesses us. How can we ever thank you enough?

  2. Such a fun celebration! How blessed to be able to plan a special party for your Mom. 102! Amazing! I love all the pics, but my favorite is the one with you and your Mom. With your heads together you look like you're sharing a special secret...the recipe for living a long life? Or how to stay so beautiful at 102! I hope this warmer weather of Spring and Summer bring good health and good times. Happy birthday Margaret!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 25, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      Hi Yaya! Mother and I thank you so much for your comment.

      Actually what I was doing in that picture was translating the conversation going on in the room between Toni, Greg and myself. Mother's hearing is very poor so she needs me to fill in the parts she misses and explain things that are new to her.

      Since she's never been on a cruise, much less to the tropics, I showed her Greg's iPad pictures of him and his granddaughter with the dolphins and Earnest Hemingway's house, including cats sleeping on the famous author's bed! She is still eager to learn new things since her formal education ended in the sixth grade. I think that's why her mind is still "good" at 102.

      Thanks for complimenting Mother on her beauty. She just shook her head incredulously when I read that to her. I find her beautiful as well. Although she is very unassuming, she faithfully puts on her makeup every morning so she looks her best, referring to it as her "health"!

      We are anxiously awaiting warmer weather so Mother can take a short stroll behind her lawn mower. She misses that a lot. (I think it's safe to say that most people feel differently about mowing their lawns!)

      We hope your spring and summer is pleasant for you and your family. Thanks again for your visit!

  3. Her beauty, both inward and outward, shines in all of these pictures. I've looked at each of them several times now, and just can't get over how tangible the love is that flows from them all. What a grand celebration! Happy 102 birthday to her! And thank you to you and Shady for allowing us all to be a part of it. This made my day!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 25, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      How nice of you to say that, Shelly! There is something about Mother that people notice right away and it endears her to them. Some people seem to just be impressed that she's lived so long. For others, it's her authenticity - she doesn't play games in relationships - she just is who she is.

      She's usually concerned about others more than she is herself, and that is why, growing up, I learned how to accept everyone, regardless of how misfit or troubled they might me, and to treat them with respect. "We're all different," she'd say.

      Even first-time visitors would leave our home with armloads of vegetables from the garden, a loaf of homemade bread and a bottle or two of home-brewed root beer.

      We're glad you enjoyed pictures of our celebration and sure appreciate your kind comment, Shelly. See you again!

  4. Hi Kathleen! And, what exciting Birthday surprises came your way Margaret! Your cake was beautiful, and looked delicious.

    And, a fun visit by motorcycle guys! How special was that? This looks to have been the best day! And, the photos tell all...the beaming expressions, a guitar concert, bingo, and an original Dell Rat! It makes me feel as though I was there too.

    The birthday table is so grand! I am very glad to have seen this wonderful celebration! I am looking forward to another chapter from the Dell archives. You and your family are so blessed, Margaret. Hugs to you all!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 25, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      Welcome to our party, Suzanne!
      Mother's friend has won prizes from the PA Farm Show for her cakes, so I asked her to bake and decorate a special one for Mother's birthday. She did a wonderful job and it was so much better tasting than commercial ones.

      Seeing the contrast of the big, burly Harley riders next to tiny, frail Mother was priceless! She was totally surprised, but loved being in the midst of all the noise and chrome.

      Her great-granddaughter's solo was certainly a creative gift. The Bingo game had us all laughing as we vied for simple prizes. (My husband, Bob, picked a bright yellow rubber duckie!) It was something all three generational levels could enjoy.

      Hopefully along with the daffodils, spring will bring me more time to write. I appreciate your and the other readers' patience and understanding as I balance the considerable caregiving duties with other activities.

      Thanks for stopping by to look and read and for sending Happy Birthday wishes with your comment. Hugs back atcha!

  5. Happy 102nd, Mrs. Schneider. I wish I looked as good as you.


    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 25, 2014 at 9:04 PM

      That 's quite a compliment, Janie! All you have to do is live for a century and two years and you can have the same look!

  6. Hallo dear Shady, Kathleen and, most importantly, lthe birthday girl, Margaret! I agree with others, that the love of your family shines out from all these beautiful photos. Margaret is looking so good at the moment. A true inspiration of beauty, inside and out. I hope she will continue to keep well. What an effort everyone put in to make this birthday so special, Kathleen. You have been lucky to have your mum, but, my goodness, she is so lucky to have you and all her family at this time in her life. So many older folk just get put into care homes, and it is so sad. Unless, of course, that they really are too poorly to be looked after at home. You are doing a sterling job in ensuring that mum's days are spent as comfortably as they can, and I admire you for that. It really has been a pleasure and honour to be involved with Margaret's life in some small way. Love to you all from deepest Devon over here in England x

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 26, 2014 at 6:27 AM

      Hallo, dear Thisisme! We are elated to have you stop by and see our report on Mother's birthday, and to send your insightful and complimentary comments.

      Mother's tenacity and positive attitude are inspirational to be sure, but as you can imagine, any progress with health issues at her age is tenuous at best. Keeping her century-plus old body as strong and healthy as possible is not for the faint of heart!

      We are acutely aware of her frailty and are vigilant about preventing even minor infections and another fall. When I mentioned this to her because she would like to be more independent and move around without us always following close behind, she said she was okay because she didn't "have any more hips to break"! I quickly reminded her that she still had TWO EACH of arms, wrists, legs, and one very fragile pelvis that would not be happy at all with a fall.

      The topic of nursing, or care homes as you call them, is much on our minds these days. We promised Mother many years ago to abide by her wish to live out her life in the house my father built, as long as, in her words, she "knew where she was". Since she amazingly and thankfully does not have dementia, we have just osteoporosis and frailty to deal with. Trust me, that's enough!

      Although she says she is "just wearing out", my sister and I tell her we are happy to accept her in any shape she's in and are committed to taking care of her in her home as long as we are able. After all, that's how it's been for families during the vast majority of man's history.

      Present-day nursing facilities for the aged and infirm are necessary solutions for some families, but we do not see them surpassing the personal level of care that we who know and love her so well can provide.

      Thank you for validating our choice to keep Mother where she wants to be. It is not always easy for us, and others do not always agree, so your compliment is especially gratifying!

      So is having you as a friend. Sunshine and goodwill always accompany your transatlantic visits, Diane-in-Devon, and we are buoyed up by your cheer. Thank you so much for being here for us!

  7. Kathryn Anderson, aka Mrs. ShadyApril 26, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Looks like Margaret had a big day surrounded by friends and family. I know how you love cheese balls, Margaret so eat up! Can't wait for next year's celebration, so stay well and keep active. Just take each day as it comes.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 26, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      Well, hello Kathryn! Mother and I are happy you visited and wrote a comment about our family's very special time.

      As it turned out, Mother not only had a big day; she had a big week. Assorted neighbors, a granddaughter who would be out of town and miss Saturday's party, Mother's visiting nurse and two physical therapists (all of whom were by now officially signed off her case) and an aide from the last nursing home/rehab who adores Mother - all dropped in unexpectedly over the course of 5 or 6 days prior to the big event.

      Mother still is looking at and appreciating all the gifts, cards, flowers and balloons they brought, so I don't think there's any doubt in Mother's mind that lots of people care about her!

      When she was a child, it apparently wasn't the custom to throw a party or even give a gift on the child's birthday. Either that, or my grandparents were in such financial trouble that it was the farthest thing from their minds. So the kind of attention she's gotten as an old lady is a curiosity to her. I'm just glad we can shower her with affection at this stage of her life.

      There's a sign we've posted where she can see it that says, "If you rest, you rust." We encourage her to move around as much as possible and continue the exercises taught us by visiting nurse and rehab PTs. We're so lucky that she is compliant with most anything we ask her to do - with the exception of giving up chocolate and cheese balls!

      Although Mother agrees with your admonition, she tells people she takes only an hour at a time...

      Thanks for commenting, Kathryn. We look forward to your return visit.

  8. What a wonderful celebration, and what a blessing to still have Margaret with you all! She must have loved it all.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 26, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      Hello, Karen!
      Yes, it we had a wonderful time at our party, and although Mother was tired afterward, I could tell she was very pleased and happy. She tells everyone how much she enjoyed seeing her whole family together and all the surprises.

      She also is amazed to see this blog post devoted to her 102nd birthday and to see herself on a computer. She smiles and sometimes laughs when I read all the comments to her that appear. It is like magic to her!

      Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for this precious time with Mother. I'm so glad I'm retired and can help her now when she needs it the most.

      After all, she gave me life and as I was growing up, she taught me how to lead a good and moral life. She sacrificed much so I could get education, and then continued to help in so many ways when my two children were born. Because of her, I achieved things she could only dream about as a little girl at the Dell, and was never able to do because of her circumstances. She continues to help me through the rough spots in my life and to be my best friend. I cherish every one of the 67 years I've known her!

      We're glad you took time to read Shady's post, look at our photos and write your comment. Please do come back again!

  9. Kathy, I am so proud to be a small part of this post but most of all, so proud to be a part of your mother Margaret's 102 birthday. Margaret looks/looked so pretty on her birthday and the day I visited her and you. What a nice celebration for Margaret! Hope to see many, many more. God bless you both!


    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 26, 2014 at 7:50 PM

      Dear Toni,
      No way can you be considered a small part of this post! Here are a few reasons: #1.You saved my ancestral home. #2. Mother and I always look forward to your visits, because - #3. You and Greg bring good cheer and a connection to the essence of what the Shady Dell in its prime meant to so many and continues to mean to us all - friendship, camaraderie, acceptance and laughter. We always have a good time and it feels like a party even when no birthday is involved.

      I love sharing Mother with others who care about her! It's wonderful for her to experience new friendships at her age, when almost all of her old friends and all of her siblings and their spouses have passed away. (She says she knows more deceased people than living ones!) Your visits also help to keep her mind active and engaged.

      I dare say the pride and honor in having you be part of Mother's birthday, and our lives, is all ours! Thank you so much for that.

  10. Glad to hear that she had a wonderful day! What a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of someone special.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 26, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      Hello there, Lucy!

      Thanks for taking a look at our pictures of Mother's birthday bash and writing a comment about them. She's enjoying all these when I read them to her.

      There were some unusual parts to the day, such as the appearance of the bikers, Kate's solo and the Bingo bonanza, but enough traditional ways to celebrate her long life - her cake with candles, having Happy Birthday sung by her family gathered around her, decorations and flowers in her favorite colors and of course gifts specially picked for her, to make her feel loved and appreciated. I'm glad you agreed!

  11. what a wonderful celebration of life. Happy birthday to such a sweet soul. Hugs

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 27, 2014 at 7:28 AM

      Good Morning Katherine!

      Mother's birthday coincided with both Easter and spring this year - both celebrations of renewal and vitality. It was a good time to count our many blessings - and yes, she is a sweet soul!

      Thank you for your kind comment, and we hope you are enjoying your spring too!

  12. Kathy there is no way I can tell you how important the time I spend with you and Margaret is to me. Margaret is like royalty to all Dell Rats. I some times just sit and let my memories and thoughts run though my mind and there is no way any one could ever write a better story. To think this all started more than a 100 years ago when Margarets father build that house on the hill .Years later as a young boy I made my first visit to the Dell with my uncle and that started a life long love affair with that house. My thanks to Toni for helping to keep this story going and to you Kathy for putting it in words. there is just no way to let you know how much this story means to this old man. And to my good friend Tom thanks for not giving up and keeping the Dell alive. The Dell is alive and well because of all your hard work. All I can say is thank you each one. Your Friend And A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 27, 2014 at 9:50 PM

      You are right, Greg! There is a golden thread that connects my grandfather, Mother, Toni, Tom, you and me. It quite simply is that house on Starcross road. Each of our stories describing her influence on us are intertwined to form one marvelous, beautiful tapestry.

      Mother and I are so glad to be part the present-day Shady Dell family. We shall never forget the story you describe or let the Dell's light fade.

      As in the past, you have written heartfelt and sincere words here that we so appreciate. Thank you Greg! We look forward to seeing you again real soon.

  13. Happy Birthday to Margaret! 102 and she looks just lovely, you and your family have such a sweet bond.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderApril 28, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      Hello, Amia,

      Welcome! Thank you for your visit to the birthday post for my mother. I will relay your compliment to her which I know will please her. Although she sometimes balks at being the center of attention, she seems genuinely surprised and happy to have people all over the globe know about her through the blog. As for our family, she is our anchor!

      We hope you pay us a visit again soon!


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