By Lori Van Ingen
Staff Writer, Lancaster Newspapers
Mabel Mellinger has some advice for young people: “Love the Lord and take guidance from his loving hand.”
“You have to look to the Lord and love your family,” said Mellinger, who turns 100 Saturday.
That’s the secret to longevity. Mellinger never thought about celebrating a century of birthdays, however.
“It’s hard to believe,” she said. “But the Lord must have some purpose to have me be here.”
Mellinger is a charter member and the oldest member of Neffsville Mennonite Church.
Born in East Lampeter Township on May 22, 2010, Mellinger was the third of eight daughters born to Jacob and Lizzie Burkhart Witmer.
She attended Pleasant View School until the family moved to Marticville. She completed the 8th grade in Martic Township.
“We didn’t go to high school. We helped each other in the family,” Mellinger said.
Mellinger helped her father pick watermelons. “I could throw and pitch the watermelons good,” she said.
She and her sister, Alice, also chased crows away from the watermelon crop.
Mellinger was about 15 years old when she began helping her parents at their roadside market. “We were happy to have that,” she said.
She later worked with Clyde Weaver and Mabel Hess at Root’s and Lebanon markets. She also worked for Stokes Meat and ended her market days with Shutt’s Fudge at Central Market.
While working at Shutt’s, Mellinger served fudge to President George H.W. Bush and Gov. Dick Thornburgh.
Bush only wanted half of a half-pound peanut butter egg, so Thornburgh took the other half, she said.
While filming the movie “Witness,” Harrison Ford visited Central Market and bought some of her fudge.
Mellinger was 22 years old when she married her husband, William G. Mellinger, on March 26, 1931.
“He used to work in a garage on Willow Street Pike, and his family lived there,” she said.
They met when her family visited the Mellinger’s. “He asked my sisters if he could take me home,” she recalled.
Because there were no telephones in those days, Mellinger and her good friend had a system to let each other know when their children had been born – they pulled down the blind.
The Mellingers had three children, Ann Diller, William G. Jr. and Dorothy High. They also had 10 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Their first home was purchased in Marticville for $800. They later moved to City Mill Road in 1949 and lived there until 1999, when her husband died. Mellinger moved to Landis Homes in Lititz.
Mellinger said she always wanted to be a nurse. Lacking the necessary training, she volunteered as a Red Cross Gray Lady at Lancaster General Hospital.
“I took charts here and there. I took patients to their rooms and helped with errands, flowers and mail,” she said. She also took a class so she could work in the emergency room, where she helped people undress, she said.
Her husband didn’t mind her volunteer work. “He just said don’t lift too heavy things because I had back trouble,” she said.
Mellinger received an engraved silver plate and a cap for volunteering at the hospital from 1963 to 2000.
To celebrate her birthday, there will be a drop-in party after 1 p.m. Saturday at the Warwick Room, Landis Homes.
© 2010 Lancaster Newspapers