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One Hundred years with a zest for life

By Staff | May 17, 2011

Miss Agnes Bower, who keeps body and mind sharp with word games and needlework, will reach her 100th birthday on May 19.

A zest for life aptly describes Agnes Bower whose tip for longevity is “to lead a quiet normal life.”

After revealing events during her life’s journey, one may wonder if the description of normalcy differs from one person to another. Agnes thought first of the good times, however after some persistence, revealed there’d been hard times too.

On May 19, 1911 the Bower’s first born arrived after they’d moved to Gooding, Idaho. Her parents, who followed a maternal uncle out west, were Charles W. Bower of Bottle Run, and Kathryn Kehrer of Montoursville.

The couple obtained a 40 acre land plot seven miles from Jerome. Incorporated in 1909, it was the area’s largest town where seeing native Indians on the street was common.

The lands to be settled were without buildings, so a house of lava rock was constructed which still stands. The main floor consisted of 5 sections while the upstairs remained unfinished during the Bower’s occupancy.

In this section of Idaho, irrigation ditches surrounding land plots were monitored by “ditch riders.” These men on horseback estimated a charge for water usage as they oversaw channels with locks dividing sections. “Almost nightly, Dad would go out with a shovel and change the water’s course by moving ground around redirecting the flow to various fields.”

For Agnes, dislikes about Idaho included her fear of riding horses and coyotes howling in the foothills.

“Helping out” remains foremost in the first-born’s memory. The family continues to identify Agnes as having a life long case of the “mother hen” syndrome.

Agnes named her siblings and in birth order they are; Ellen (Baer); Irene who died in infancy; Jacob; Hazel (Fullmer) and David. The mother died soon after birthing the last child which brought the father with children in tow, back to the Williamsport area.

Sometime after their train left Chicago, Hazel needed to use the facilities. Lifting the lid revealed the lavatory was bottomless. Not only did the two-year-old see rails rapidly rolling by, but the noise was frightful as well. “My sister Ellen and I hung onto her,” Agnes said.

Upon arriving in Pennsylvania and so as to go to work, the father distributed his children among various relatives. “On weekends, dad came and gathered us and we’d spend time together,” the daughter said. Three years later, marriage to Martha Sands brought a stepmother and eventually three additional siblings; Willard, Harold “Nub” and Barbara (Harding).

Her first experience with educational had been at a church which also served as a school. Coming to Williamsport at age 11, Agnes was soon to enter Curtin Junior High. “That wasn’t for me,” she said, and remained home to help before coming of an age to join the workforce. For 25 years, she was an employee of the Commonwealth; 11 at Laurelton followed by 14 at Muncy state homes.

During that time span, Agnes survived a pedestrian/vehicle accident at Laurelton, and at

Muncy, suffered a concussion after being hit over the head by an inmate with a two by four piece of wood.

These years were prior to the time the state began issuing workers retirement benefits, so in order to qualify for social security, Agnes went to Muncy Valley’s Skilled Nursing Unit where she worked nine and a half years. After her father’s death in 1970, she resided in her home until 93 years of age. Since then she’s been residing at the nursing unit where she is content and feels at home in the familiar setting where she’d worked.

A relative described Agnes as living light, not having a lot of stuff. She’d owned two cars during her lifetime.

With good eyesight and finger dexterity, she remains an avid needle-worker. “I have to keep my hands busy,” she says showing her embroidered and crocheted items. She’d also mastered tatting, a near vanishing art, which she does without watching the shuttle.

Also within sight are paperback books containing “word find” games credited with keeping her mind sharp. On a bi-weekly basis, Agnes writes letters to her sister Ellen in Shippensburg.

Staff at the skilled nursing facility says that regardless of being the eldest resident, Agnes is often the only one remaining awake at the end of movie showings.

Agnes holds membership at Hughesville’s Christ United Methodist Church where prayer for her continued health was offered last Sunday.

Over the weekend, 44 family members surprised the birthday lady at a New Columbia restaurant celebrating Agnes, a so called quiet normal history and her continued zest for life.