Centenarian got her rest -- and plenty of chocolate, too
BY DAVID O'CONNOR, Staff Writer
She was raised on a farm and went to a one-room schoolhouse, with the same teacher, for the first eight years of her school life.
In 1930, just as America was sinking into the Great Depression, she was one of just five members of her graduating class from Strasburg High School.
E. Mae Gish calls herself "just an ordinary person," but there has been nothing ordinary about her hard work, her faith and her commitment to her family.
Gish celebrates her 100th birthday today, and her family is planning a celebration at Landis Homes, Manheim Township, where she has lived for three and a half years.
Asked how she has made it to the milestone birthday, the outgoing, quick-witted centenarian quipped, "I got my rest!"
She also likes her chocolate, she said with a smile.
Gish, whose maiden name was Hess, spent years on a farm, both growing up in the Strasburg area and, later, in Elizabethtown for nearly 20 years after she was married.
She can remember as a youngster going to market with her father in an old panel truck. Later she spent many hours gardening and traveling to Lancaster's old Northern Market to sell produce.
She also was busy creating "works of art" with her knitting, crocheting, tatting, needlepoint and cross-stitch, said her daughter, Janet Martin of Maytown.
"The Good Lord has had a purpose for my life," said Gish, who has lived a life of faith and has Proverbs 3:5-6 as life Bible verses: "Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Gish is a charter member of Marietta's Community Bible Church, formerly known as Congregational Bible Church.
She still enjoys knitting, and has always loved flowers, with a basket of violets often to be found in her windowsill at Landis Homes.
She was married 69 years to J. Martin Gish, who was a farmer for nearly 20 years and later a seed salesman, before her husband's death in 2005.
In addition to her daughter, she has two sons, Carl, of Landisville, and James, of Mount Joy, plus five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
She worked for more than 30 years for Gehman's Furniture & Interiors of Mount Joy, and also was well-known for cooking large meals for neighboring farmers who came to help the Gishes harvest their crops.
When her children began school, she started working part time as a cook at the former Patton Trade School of Elizabethtown.
Then, a whole generation of E-town students got to eat her specialties, as she worked from 1958 to 1969 as head baker and dessert maker at E-town High.
"She was a good cook and pie-maker," her daughter said.
After retiring, Gish got involved in dressmaking and became well-known for making curtains and custom draperies.
Many of her summers were spent at Bible conferences at Sandy Cove, the Christian retreat center in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.
She also used her sewing talent to help Sandy Cove, making choir gowns, curtains and pillows.