By Kellen M. Quigley
For lifelong Springville-area resident Marion Ahles, an active social life and plenty of hobbies and adventures have made the past few years of her centenarian life busier than many people’s who are 20 years younger.
A week from Friday, she will turn 103 years old, and to help her celebrate, a birthday party is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the Concord Senior Center at 1 p.m.
Marion was born Sept. 13, 1916, at a time when the world was involved in World War I, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States and Pop Warner was coaching the Pittsburgh Panthers football team to a national championship.
“I don’t feel any older,” she said in a recent conversation with the Times. “I wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t for the calendar.”
The last few years have been full of adventures for Marion. Just last month, Marion attended the Erie County Fair, arriving at noon and staying until the fireworks at 9 p.m.
“It was a nice fair,” she said. “They work hard.”
In 2017, at age 101, she started the year with a two-week trip to Spokane, Wash., in January for the birth of her fifth great-grandchild.
During this year, she went camping several times, participated in Springville Concord Senior Citizen meetings and day trips, taught oil painting classes several times a month, went boating with family on Keuka Lake, enjoyed a day trip to Holden Arboretum in Ohio and spent a weekend in Dearborn, Mich., celebrating birthdays with friends.
Marion even had the energy and ambition to use her ax to help dig out a large old tree root in her backyard.
“I got the pictures of her doing it,” said Marion’s daughter, Donna Schweiker.
Marion keeps herself busy with attending her great-grandchildren’s school concerts, hockey games, soccer games and swim meets. She enjoys the summer concerts in Springville and West Valley and attends Springville Concord Garden Club meetings, where she made several Christmas wreaths this past November.
Last fall, Marion helped can green beans, applesauce and tomatoes and created beautiful intricate beaded bracelets as Christmas gifts. She also took time to teach her children how to make her delicious bourbon fruit cakes.
In January 2018, Marion broke her leg. After a successful repair at Erie County Medical Center, she completed rehab but nearly succumbed to the flu in March. Her “never fail” attitude and lots of prayers brought her through.
“Life is different now,” she said. “It’s slowed down.”
Marion is still active as she is about to turn 103. She attends concerts, graduations and family parties, taught her great-grandson how to make and bake pies and was interviewed by The Women’s Health Initiative of the University of Buffalo for a documentary.
“Whenever we want to go anywhere, it’s always ‘Sure, I’ll go,’” said Schweiker. “And she takes no naps.”
Marion currently enjoys puzzles, playing cards, reading scientific magazines, birdwatching, helping with household chores and caring for her family of Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
She especially loves the family backyard bonfires because they always make s’mores — marshmallows are her favorite.
“Mom can get down the steps and into the van,” Schweiker said. “She goes to Walmart and shops with us and we go to the Garden Club meetings. Everywhere I need to go, she goes out, too.”
According to a biography written about her for her 100th birthday, Marion was a machinist during World War II and made special order parts for military aircraft. She did brickwork and electrical wiring for the home she and her husband, John, built in Springville.
She was a beautician with her own business and later was well known for her talent in the furniture reupholstery business, which she ran for many years. She and John helped create and manage the Springville Rifle and Pistol Club. She was the Champion Lady Pistol Shooter of Western New York for several years.
Marion said as everything changed over the past 100 years, she “accepted it. Change is a part of life.”
She has two children, four grandchildren, five bonus grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and 12 bonus great-grandchildren.
Marion has a sunny, positive attitude and is always ready to get out and see what the world can offer next.
“There’s a lot of surprises because I probably can’t do the things that I did, and I’m aware of that,” she said. “I don’t think I look forward, I just love it when each thing comes. Enjoy every day, because every day is different.”