By Lori Van Ingen
Staff Writer for Lancaster Newspapers
February 23, 2011
Margaret Denlinger has led a simple life.
“People my age did, mostly,” the Landis Homes Retirement Community resident, who turns 100 today, said.
Born Feb. 23, 1911, near Kinzers, Denlinger was the fifth of Willis G. and Margaret Wenger Denlinger’s eight children.
[Blog Editor's note: Margaret's parents names were actually: Willis G. and Margaret Wenger Kreider.]
She enjoyed crocheting afghans, doilies and dolls. She also read the Bible every day, as well as fiction and biographies.
Denlinger belonged to Paradise Mennonite Church, Ronks Fire Company Auxiliary and Paradise Community Senior Citizens.
As the oldest daughter, “I helped to do most anything,” she said. “I liked to work outside.”
She said she believes she was about 12 years old when she began to help milk the cows on their farm, but because she had four older brothers, they did most of the farmwork.
Denlinger attended Puddintown School, a one-room school about a mile from her home, through eighth grade.
She then attended Salisbury Township Central High School, where she graduated in 1929. There were 16 students in the class, and only three of them were boys, she said. She said she is the only remaining member of that class.
Noting that most people at the time didn’t attend high school, Denlinger said, “Hardly any of my friends went to high school, but my dad was interested in us going to school.”
Denlinger learned to drive a car when she was 16.
“The boys taught me. We lived on a farm, so there was lots of room to drive around,” she said.
After high school, Denlinger worked at Hershey Garment Co. in Paradise. She used a sewing machine to make slips, gowns and pajamas. She said she quit to get married and “keep house.”
She married Earl Denlinger on June 1, 1933.
She said the couple was married in Denlinger’s home by a retired Mennonite bishop. Usually, Mennonites of that era wore white dresses with black shoes and stockings, “but I wanted to wear white shoes and stockings. The bishop who married us didn’t care.”
She said she and her husband took a 10-day honeymoon, traveling throughout the South, because her husband had a good job even though it was during the Depression.
“A lot of people didn’t have work,” she said. “We were fortunate.”
Her husband later worked as an auto mechanic until he became sick, she said.
The couple lived in Kinzers for three years before buying a home in Ronks, where they lived until moving to Landis Homes Retirement Community in 1988.
They had one daughter, Betty Jane, who died eight weeks after Denlinger’s husband did in 1991.
Denlinger has no grandchildren, but she has 28 nieces and nephews.
“My nieces and nephews are my children,” she said. “They all are special.”
After raising her daughter, Denlinger returned to Hershey Garment Co. in 1949, where she worked for the next 28 years.
Although she drove until she was 90, Denlinger said she never had been on an airplane.
“I think I’m the only person who never went up,” she said. “I never had any reason to, so I never did. In those days, you didn’t spend a lot of money if you didn’t have to.”
Denlinger does remember, however, the first time she ever saw an airplane.
“We were kids going to the one-room school. The teacher left us all go out and see it. I was maybe 10 or 12 years old,” Denlinger said. “That was something back then. If (someone) saw a plane, you went out and looked.”
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