Ann Good and Helen Zerbe
By Kay Gallagher
Ann Good and Helen (Sis) Zerbe are sisters born several years apart, but actually could almost pass for twins. Ann was born on July 27 and Helen on Oct. 8. They reside in the mansion on the premises of Zerbe Sisters Nursing Home in Narvon.
The daughters of Theodore and Mary (Wise) Zerbe, they were born and raised on a farm north of Bowmansville.
There had been eight children. "Ann, Katie (another sister) and I are the three surviving children,' Sis told me. There were three sons, five daughters.
These delightful ladies attended the Bowmansville School in Bowmansville. After completing eight years of schooling, Ann and Sis worked in a factory on the family farm property. "We manufactured raw hosiery and had 30 employees,' Ann said. "This business was in operation for several years, probably six or more,' both sisters told me.
I noticed Ann and Sis glancing at one another often when talking with me, making certain they agreed on the facts.
Gradually, a nursing home was started on the farm with 11 available beds. Ann, Sis, and Dorothy, another sister, were "hands on' with the business. "We did this for four, perhaps five years,' Sis told me proudly. Ann agreed.
They wanted to expand, and decided to purchase ground at the site where they live currently. Ann told me they bought 78 acres that had been owned by a doctor. "Dr. Riggs lived in the mansion on the estate,' Sis said, "and he was rich,' she added.
Ann had married Omar B. Good by this time and the three sisters, Ann, Sis and Dotty (as she was known), along with Ann's husband Curley (as he was known), made the purchase. This was in 1961. Remodeling was done almost immediately. "We advertised and held an open house,' Sis said in her clear and crisp voice. A nursing staff was hired and everyone was busy and happy. It was successful.
Ann, Sis and Dotty returned to school for further their education and acquire more experience. "We attended Lancaster General Hospital and Millersville College, graduating with LPN degrees. All three of us,' Sis told me. Prior to that, the sisters attended night school at a Osteopathic Hospital in Lancaster.
I asked Ann and Sis if they have always gotten along so well together. I couldn't resist the question because the mutual respect they showed one another was obvious to me. Almost in unison they replied, "Yes,' and they smiled at each other.
The three sisters studied music many years ago, and also were given vocal lessons for several years. "That was in the late 50's,' Sis told me. "About four years,' she said. Ann played the mandolin, Sis played the violin, Dotty played guitar, and Ann's husband, Curley, played bass fiddle. The three sisters and Curley used their talent by playing their instruments at square dances. They loved doing this.
The busy foursome could be heard on radio station WLAN in Lancaster, then WEEU in Reading. "Sis was the mistress of ceremonies at both stations,' Ann told me.
"We did this in the 60's,' Sis said. During this same period they operated Shupp's Grove on Route 897 in Adamstown. "Many famous personalities and performers appeared at the Grove,' Sis was quick to add.
"Yes we met the Ink Spots, Carter Sisters, Minnie Pearl, and many others,' Ann chimed in.
After Curley passed away, the three sisters continued to play their instruments. "And we did this after our beloved sister, Dotty, passed away,' Ann said in a quiet voice.
"Two years ago we stopped playing,' Sis said. Ann and Sis are members of St. Paul's Church in Bowmansville. "We attend services regularly,' Sis quipped.
These remarkable sisters have lived a very full and satisfying life. They are pleased with their accomplishments.
I asked them if they did much traveling through the years. "Our traveling was usually only short distances in relation to our musical performances,' Sis told me.
"We were busy with our duties as nurses,' Ann said.
"We have been active here at Zerbe's until last year,' Sis said smiling.
Both sisters watch television; mostly news shows, some sitcoms, too. "Years ago we watched Lawrence Welk,' Ann told me. Do you remember him?' Ann asked me. I told her I did.
Sis wanted me to know Ann is a good cook. Some years ago she would bake her delicious cherry pies and send them to farm shows and enter them in contests. "And you know what?' Sis said. "She won blue ribbons. Usually won first prize,' she added.
These two immaculately and identically dressed ladies told me many changes have occurred through the years. Many happy event, and some unhappy events, such as when their parents and siblings passed away.
We discussed politics briefly. "President Bush tries to lead our country in the right direction,' Sis said. "He has a big task,' she added. Both sisters vote at election time.
Ann and Sis believe they have been blessed with healthy genes. Sis had been hospitalized in the spring. She is fine now. Ann is recovering from surgery and is temporarily living in the nursing area until she returns to the mansion with Sis.
Today Zerbe Nursing Facility has approximately 87 persons living in the Skilled Nursing Area and 27 are in the Intermediate Area. Many persons are living in the cottages that were built on the property. "And I can't tell you how many persons are living in the cottages, because they are continuing to build,' Sis was pleased to tell me.
I feel fortunate to have met these two ladies. They are all I expected and more.