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Happy 100th, Dorothy!
ROCHELLE A. SHENK Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Dorothy Cushman will celebrate her 100th birthday with not just one, but with two birthday parties.
She will celebrate on her birthday, Jan. 16, with fellow residents at United Zion Retirement Community, where she’s lived for over a year. For the second party on Saturday, 150 guests – friends and family – have been invited to help her celebrate. Her favorite cake is red velvet, but "I’ll be happy as long as it says ‘Happy 100th Birthday’."
"I never thought I’d reach this age. My mom lived to be 102," she said. When asked about the secret of her longevity, she said, "I’ve learned to take one day at a time. I try to eat right and have a good life filled with family, friends and church. It’s important to be supportive of your family."
That family includes three children – Jack Markert, Judy Markert Mentzer and Jane Markert – five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and two great-great grand children.
In a sense Dorothy is a part of the fabric of Lititz. At the time of her birth, her parents lived on the third floor of the Sturgis House.
"I was born at home, and I think that even at that time the building was known as the Sturgis House," she said. Her earliest memory is of her sister, Ruth, who was born when Dorothy was four years old. "Ruth and I were good buddies," she recalled.
Her parents operated S.O. Heisley Shirt factory, which was located off Liberty Street in Lititz. Dorothy learned to sew and worked in the factory for a number of years.
"We made shirts, children’s clothes and a few items. At one point, there were 50 people working in the factory," she proudly proclaimed.
She graduated from Lititz High School in 1931 and married Russell Markert in 1935 (at that time she was 21 years old). After their three children were in school she went back to work, this time at Carter’s. She retired from there at age 62 and focused on her in-home sewing business.
Dorothy’s husband, Russell, a watchmaker for Lancaster’s Hamilton Watch, had also retired and had an in-home watch repair business.
"We were quite a pair. He worked on watches in a room upstairs, and I was in the basement sewing," she said with a smile.
Russell passed away in 1984. They had been married for 41 years.
Dorothy may be a part of many adult women’s memories for the doll clothes that she made and sold at the Lititz Craft Show. In addition to clothes for girls’ baby dolls and Barbies, she also created Amish dolls and had a line of clothes for them. At the craft show, she also sold baby bibs.
During her retirement years, Dorothy had more of an opportunity to indulge her love of travel, sparked by a family trip to Niagara Falls when she was 16 years old. "Seeing Niagara Falls was pretty amazing," she said.
The sewing factory owned by her parents did some work for a company in New York City, and Dorothy and her dad spent a weekend there after she graduated from high school.
"We visited the Empire State Building. I had never seen a building that tall. The view of the city from the top of the Empire State Building is something I’ve never forgotten," she said with a smile. A 103-story skyscraper, the Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931, and at that time was the world’s tallest building. Today, it is the 23rd tallest in the world.
After Russell died, Dorothy did a lot more traveling, often on motorcoach trips with a group of friends. Although she was pretty awestruck by the power of Niagara Falls and the view from the top of the Empire State Building, her favorite destination is Sedona, Ariz.
"I love the red rocks, they’re really spectacular. One of my favorite places in Sedona is Church of the Red Rocks. The sanctuary has a lot of windows with views of the red rocks," she explained.
Her church in Lititz, St. Luke’s UCC, may not have those awe inspiring views, but it is the church where she’s a life member. For many years she sang in St. Luke’s choir.
Dorothy met Robert Cushman. They married in 1998 and she moved to his home at Cornwall Manor. Dorothy explained that Robert’s son lived in California, and they visited with him during their honeymoon in San Francisco. "The Golden Gate Bridge is pretty amazing," she recalled.
The couple continued to travel, but their journeys were mostly day trips. Robert passed away in 2003.
"I’ve been blessed with two wonderful husbands," she said.
Dorothy continued to live at Cornwall Manor until last year when a back injury from a serious fall precipitated the move to United Zion Retirement Community. Her bright, sun-filled space is loaded with family photos, artwork featuring birds (she’s an avid bird watcher), and butterflies.
"I don’t travel that much today, but I do read a lot of books," she said.
Her favorite type of books? Amish (romance) novels and modern romance novels by popular authors such as Debbie Macomber.
"I’ve done a lot in my lifetime. I’m going to keep a positive outlook on the coming years," Dorothy said.
More HAPPY 100, page A13