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Great Aunt Mabel

Mabel & GurneyCompilation of articles written about Mabel for her 100th and 103rd birthdays:

 (the articles have been scanned and are in my yahoo photo albums)


Imagine a lifetime spanning the succession of numerous presidents, several wars, and some major inventions which brought about significant changes in the American lifestyle.  Mabel Westover has seen all this and more during her 103 years of living.  She has seen and heard what most of us have only read about in history books.  She said her life has been like living through a history book because of all the changes she, her family, and America have experienced. 

She is the daughter of Samuel Johnson Rodkey, a Civil War veteran, and Sarah Rachel Bish.  Born in Knoxdale (PA) on Oct 10, 1896, right before the turn of the century when Grover Cleveland was President, Mrs. Westover, the former Mabel Alice Rodkey, started out life just as America was beginning to modernize. 

At the age of 13, she moved with her parents, two brothers and three sisters to Westover where she met and married Gurney Westover at age 17.  She began teaching Sunday School two years later at age 19 and continued to do so until the age of 94.  “Everything around me has changed, but the same Bible lesson I taught to my son Bert who is now 82, is the same as I taught to one of my recent students who is 10 years old,” said Mrs. Westover.

Mrs. Westover recounted some of the changes she experienced during her century-plus years of life.  “I was married for 10 years before we had any electric lights and then we only had one light bulb for the entire house for the first few years.  We finally got an indoor bathroom in 1941,” she said.  She continued, “all our heat as well as our meals came from a coal stove until 1950 when we got a gas stove; the kind with the bottled gas tanks.  “I also washed clothes in a wooden tub with a washboard for 20 years.  My husband was a coal miner and later worked in a tannery.  It was hard washing his clothes by hand so I was glad to get an electric washer in 1927.”  Mrs. Westover explained that the electric washer plugged into an electric outlet, but had a hand crank which operated the agitator.  “What a lot of people today think of as old-fashioned appliances, were new and modern to us and had just been invented,” said Mrs. Westover.

Mrs. Westover recalled the names of all the presidents she has seen come and go over the years.  She began with William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States, who was assassinated when Mrs. Westover was 5-years-old, and named all of the presidents right up to Bill Clinton.  Recalling the past 19 presidents and living through and watching their terms of office come and go, prompted Mrs. Westover to recall she also weathered the turbulent years of several wars.  “I was around through them all, World War I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam,” said Mrs. Westover. 

She went on to mention she has also seen the evolutions of the automobile, the airplane and the space program.  Mrs. Westover said she had her first plane ride in her 80s.  “I remember when our only means of travel was a horse and buggy.  Sometimes we went on trips on an old-time steam locomotive train,” she said, “and I also remember when movies were 25 cents.”  She added,  “Our big entertainment was going to the county fair; then our year was complete.”

On Oct 10, Mrs. Westover celebrate being 103 years young… Mrs. Westover ahs lived to see six generations of her family grow up.  She attributes her longevity to, as she said, “a good life, a good marriage and a good man who was kind, loving and who loved kids.”