Even the birthday girl can’t believe she’s turning 107 today.
“Can you imagine that?” Fearn Gerber asked Monday, one day before her birthday.
Then she answered: “I can’t either.”
She lives on the Gerber Farm near the farm of former Ohio governor, U.S. representative and presidential candidate James Cox. Until a few years ago when she gave up her driver’s license because of failing eye sight, she drove to First Presbyterian Church in Middletown and the grocery store. She gets herself dressed, fixes her own meals and reads the newspaper every day thanks to an enlarger in the kitchen.
“Grateful that I’m still able to do what I can do,” she said.
The family will celebrate her birthday with a large party Saturday. She and her husband, Fred, were married for 55 years, until he died in 1988. They had three children: Patricia, 83, who lives in Washington, D.C.; Kenneth, 78, who lives in Wilmington; and Jerry, 81, who died in June.
She also has 12 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 18 great-great-grandchildren.
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On Monday, one of those grandchildren, Rita Beiser, brought a great-greatgrandchild, Evelyn Beiser, 18 months, for a visit. When Gerber saw her great-great-granddaughter, her eyes lit up. She wanted to shake Evelyn’s hand, but settled for a high-five.
Later, after talking about her large family, she said, “These are all that keep me going. Life is good. Life is good.”
Gerber was born on Nov. 12, 1912 in Mowrystown, Ohio, and she still recalls helping her father, a mail carrier, deliver fresh milk to the local residents in his Model T. They dropped off racks of eight bottles on the porches at night when it was cooler because no one had refrigeration.
She said her parents made financial sacrifices so she could attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Miami University, and that’s where she met her future husband.
“Oh, that’s another story,” she said.
Live to be 107 and you have lots of stories to tell.
In college, Gerber said she was a bellhop in the dorm and when someone called or visited, she alerted the female residents. One day, she said, three or four fraternity guys asked if there were any women available for a walk around campus. That sounded appealing to Gerber, so she rounded up a few of her friends.
They went on a walk, and the next day, Fred Gerber, not the guy she walked with, asked if she wanted to go out. They played tennis that day, and the next Sunday, he was standing outside the church after she sang in the choir.
“Love at first sight,” she said.
He worked at Armco, and they eventually settled in Middletown. She started teaching at Maple Park Elementary School, but because female teachers were not allowed to be married, they secretly married on June 12, 1933 in Brookville, Ind. At the time, she said, schools didn’t want married women taking jobs from male teachers.
They bought the Gerber Farm in 1959, and she’s never moved.
“I just feel at home here,” she said.
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When her husband lived in Garden Manor Care Center for 15 years, she visited him every day. She led current events sessions, sang to the residents and made quilts.
She joined First Presbyterian Church on March 25, 1948, and taught Sunday School and sang in the choir for more than 50 years. She was the first woman to be elected an Elder in the church.
Gerber said she recently had a dream that she was in heaven and there was a group of people following her. They wanted her to play the piano and teach them to sing, she said.
“That fits her to a T,” Rita Beiser said.
So on Sunday, Gerber and JoZie, 9, another great-great-grandchild, sat at the piano in her living room. She hadn’t touched the keys for years, because she can’t see the music. But she played “Amazing Grace” as JoZie sang.
“My hands just went,” she said.