On Oct. 18, the auditorium at Frederick Mennonite Community was filled with friends, family, and well-wishers gathered together to celebrate resident Beatrice Lightowler's 104th birthday.The festivities began with the singing of several rounds of "Happy Birthday," followed by cake, refreshments, and a presentation highlighting many of the events of Beatrice's life relative to world history. For example, her birth was noted as "In 1903, the Wright brothers fly at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and Beatrice Ellen Smith is born in Longton, England."
To emphasize how much has happened in the past 104 years, the presentation, which was written by her family, mentioned the following events that occurred during Beatrice's lifetime: two World Wars, the sinking of the Titanic, the construction of the Empire State building, the creation of the United Nations, the invention of the polio vaccine, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Beatrice's early years included the typical educational experience. Then, when she was 18 in 1920, she met George Tunnicliffe, and two years later they married.
Their first child, a girl, was born in 1924, and between then and 1945, Beatrice and George had three additional children, two boys and one girl.
The family moved to the United States in 1948, settling into Pottstown. Even though the United States became her home, and as of 1955 she was a citizen here, she still made regular visits back to England until she was well into her eighties.
Although managing the family was Beatrice's primary job while her rearing her children, she did hold several other positions during the course of her lifetime. She had her first job at age 15, when she sorted pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. Later in life, after many years raising her children, she helped her husband run a Poconos tourist home called "The Beechnut." Then after George's passing, she worked as a cook and housekeeper in order to help put her youngest child through college.
In 1971, Beatrice married for the second time to Richard Lightowler. Seven years later, she travelled to Oregon to be there as her first granddaughter got married.
Over the years she became a grandmother to six, and eventually a great-grandmother to five.
Despite having difficulty with her hearing these days, Beatrice is healthy and hopeful about staying well.
"I'm getting older," Beatrice said. "It's nice if you can get old and keep well."
Her eldest daughter, Joy Mayes, who is also a Frederick resident, recalls her mother saying many times that a clean life is the key to longevity.
"She used to always say, 'It's clean living. I never drank. I never smoked. That's why,'" said Mayes describing her mother.
Her healthy lifestyle seems to be working, and as a result, she has the distinction of being the eldest among both the residents and staff at Frederick.