By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Mary Froba hopeful, grateful, happy at age 100

Photo courtesy of Megan Shepherd: “The party was a huge success; even the weather was perfect,” Mary Shepherd said after the 100th birthday celebration for her mother, Mary Froba, pictured at the party June 14 in Westlake Village.

Ventura County Star
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mary Feldman was 9 when she celebrated the end of World War I with her aunts on Main Street in Louisville, Ky.

Wed in 1928 to Paul Froba, she recalls the Great Depression, when she gave birth to her son in 1930 and her daughter in 1932. And after a 68-year marriage, she spent the final moments of her husband’s life at his side when he died in 1997.

Now 100 years old with eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, Mary Angela Froba said this particular birthday has special meaning.

“It means that I’ve been more fortunate to live this long, more than most people,” said Froba of Westlake Village, who turned 100 on May 15.

She celebrated her centennial June 14 at the Westlake Village Inn in Westlake Village, when her family — including loved ones from Finland — came to town.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my whole extended family because I don’t think I’ll see them all again,” Froba said in an interview before the event.

Looking back on the past 100 years, she said the biggest life lesson she has learned so far is the realization of a higher power.

“God has been the biggest thing in my life,” Froba said. “I always feel like there is something bigger than I am and bigger than the world and that God is always there. He gives me hope and when crises come up, I turn to God and it’s gotten solved a better way than I would have known.”

Born in Louisville, she was 13 when her mother died, leaving behind a family of seven children.

“My grandfather talked about the possibility of putting the children in an orphanage because there was no one to care of them,” recalled Froba’s daughter, Mary Shepherd, of the story she often heard while growing up.

“The two oldest boys had muscular dystrophy and could not walk on their own but were pulled in a wagon that my grandfather put a seat in to hold them upright,” said Shepherd, of Newbury Park. “My mother, hearing this, told her father, ‘No, I will quit school (she was in eighth grade) and take care of my family.’ Her youngest sister was just 4 years old. So, around 1922, my mother began her profession of being both mother and nurse.”

In the next two years, the oldest brothers died of pneumonia, leaving her with four children to raise.

“The family was poor and had outdoor plumbing,” Shepherd said. “On Saturday nights, they used a big tub, which they put in the kitchen close to the stove, and that’s where everyone bathed using the same water, adding water that was heated.

“There was only one bedroom. Three children slept in one bed in the living room and the dining room.”

Now, Shepherd said, nothing ever seems too big for her.

“She just takes life, still today, as it comes. She does what she has to do and never feels victimized by her circumstances; no matter how painful the situation is, the difficulty of life, she moves forward, never complaining,” Shepherd said. “Now she is legally blind and hard of hearing, but she lives alone, does her own cooking, makes her bed, puts out her own garbage cans, and until just recently was doing her own housekeeping. She is blind, yet reads about 25 talking books a month.”

She met her husband, Paul, while walking down the street with friends. “They started talking. That was the spark that ignited a marriage of 68 happy years,” said Shepherd, noting that her parents had four children together.

“They had a beautiful marriage, very devoted to one another,” she said. “When my father was dying 13 years ago, and mother was caring for him at home, he said to me as she walked out of his room one day, ‘There goes an angel; always was, always will be.’ And that’s how he treated her all their life together.”

Another story Shepherd heard as a child showed her the depth of her parents’ character.

“My brother at the age of 5 was killed under the wheels on a truck. It was an accident. My parents knew this,” Shepherd said.

“The truck was company-owned and, of course, they had insurance. My parents were poor, but there was never any talk about suing the company. The insurance company thought for sure that they would go after money. They didn’t; they said no money could bring Paulie back.”

Looking back on her life, Froba said her happiest moments were getting married and the birth of her children.

Her advice to today’s generation revolves around the golden rule: “Be honest and upright with everybody in your life,” Froba said. “Treat others like you’d like to be treated; when there is a problem, try to solve it so that others won’t be hurt.”

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