Not your typical 88-year-old

By on December 27, 2017

Norma basks in the glory of a tidy yard after cleaning up the remainder of fall leaves on Dec. 11.

Norma Rhoads rakes rings around the competition

On a brisk December morning, a few hours after the sun greets people in preparation for the American work week, you may spot a small-statured elderly lady raking leaves in the “Coolest Small Town in America.”

Not just with any rake, but with a half-foot wide, relatively small green one.

“That’s the rake I like to use…the other ones are just too heavy,” Norma Rhoads says as she sips on her homemade tea after a long day of rigorous work. Norma has been joyously raking leaves at the same residence for the past 60 years and change, a quaint, old-fashioned home built shortly after the conflict known as World War II came to an end.

Before the deadliest war in history ensued, Norma met a young man by the name of Clarence Rhoads; she would soon fall deeply in love and go on to marry the charming fellow shortly after he returned from the service in 1946. They happily became husband and wife and welcomed their first child, Dennis, into the world during the winter months of 1947. Throughout the years, the inseparable couple created three more beautiful children together: Randall, Rodney, and Bonnie, raising them all under the same roof in the house they had built in 1952.

Fast forward 65 years, and Norma continues to find immense pleasure and comfort in her lifelong home, a feeling she unequivocally knows will not be found anywhere else.

“I really do not want to go to a nursing home,” Norma sternly declares while browsing through the Dec. 13 edition of the local newspaper. “If I can get around here, I will continue to live here.”

Norma is very humble and with the ample amount of time I had the pleasure of spending with her, it has become pristinely clear that she does much more than simply “get around.”

At 88, she single-handedly manages her entire home, accomplishing tasks that can become seemingly daunting for most people her age. She continues to do her own laundry, vacuum the house, go grocery shopping, set up Christmas decorations during this time of the year, and most importantly, works hard outside to ensure her property is in immaculate condition.

Even more astounding, she was able to persevere through the heartbreaking death of her lifelong companion in February of 2013. When asked about her husband’s saddening death, Norma kept an ambiguous and humble outlook while reminiscing on the times they shared together.

“I knew I could not let his death plague me for the rest of my life,” she said, a sense of anguish washing over her face. “I am just eternally grateful for the time I was able to spend with him, we shared many great experiences together. We were married for over 60 years, so he was everything to me. I hope to be reunited with him and the Lord when my time on Earth comes to an end.”

The subject of her husband’s death is a sensitive one for Norma, but she is accepting of it and has allowed herself to move on in this life, although she anxiously awaits the day when she will be reunited with him.

In the present, Norma continues to find purpose and sustenance at the Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Rothsville, a place she has been going to worship the Lord her whole life. She was baptized on Nov. 8, 1931, and has never stopped attending the church services ever since. During her time as a member of Jerusalem Lutheran, Norma has made tremendous contributions to the church; she embarked on an unparalleled 33-year run as the organist every Sunday. Also, she always has made consistent contributions in the form of money as well as food when the church has special get-togethers for occasions like Christmas and Easter.

Although Norma is quickly approaching her 90th birthday, she shows no signs of slowing down.

“I will continue to live here and work as long as I possibly can,” she says with a pleasant grin on her face.

It is quite remarkable what this elderly woman is still capable of and her determination to continue to live in her home, as well as relentlessly work indoors and out, is a testament to what each person should strive to be like when they are 88.

Before turning on the television to watch her favorite channel The Game Show Network, Norma had some words of encouragement and advice for those who want to be like her: “Continue to work hard, even if you do not feel like it. The will to stay here (in her house) and do what I want to do instead of being put into a nursing home allows me to continue to thrive.”

Michael Votano is the proud grandson of Norma Rhoads.

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