You're never too old to join

Loujane Johns
Elizabeth Westerdahl

Elizabeth Westerdahl celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 25. A few days before that the Gu-Ya-No-Ga Chapter of the D.A.R. (Daughters of the America Revolution) welcomed her as a prospective new member.

Westerdahl said she is pleased to join, but doesn’t know how many meetings she will be able to attend. She lives at Clinton Crest Manor.

Becoming a member of the D.A.R. is not an easy process. Regent Lee Rice says an applicant has to be over the age of 18 (so Elizabeth qualifies). You have to prove lineal blood lines from an ancestor who aided in achieving American Independence between 1775, the Battle of Lexington and 1783, the withdrawal of British Troops from New York.  Lee said, jokingly, “If you can prove a relative gave Washington a glass of water - it counts.”

Westerdahl’s son, Bruce, has been involved in genealogy research for some time.  He found three relatives, who would meet the criteria, and then convinced his mother she should apply.

Elias Eyster of York, Pa. is listed in military records, as a member of the 3rd Battalion in 1780.  Christian Eyster (1710-92) served as a private in the 5th Company of York County troops. 

Bruce also has documentation of a relative, George Spengler , born in 1150 in Wuerzburg, Germany, who was a Cupbearer to the Prince - Bishop of the ecclesiastical principality of Wurzburg. He accompanied the Emperor Fredrick on crusades to the Holy Land.

Rice said the documentation has been sent to the national D.A.R. headquarters in Washington, D.C.  The local chapter and national organization are excited that Westerdahl is probably the oldest person ever to apply for membership. Rice said confirmation of the documentation could take a few months, but they wanted to welcome her now.

The centenarian says, “It doesn’t seem like a hundred years.”  She talked about all the changes she has seen in her lifetime. “Travel is much different. You get places faster.” She remembers travel by horse and buggy and the first family car.  “Oh yes,” she emphatically replied when asked if she had travelled in an airplane.

Westerdahl was born in York, Pa. Just out of high school, she worked for a while as a reporter for the York Gazette Daily, specializing in wedding stories. In 1942 she and her husband moved to Gettysburg. The couple walked on the battlefield daily. In Gettysurg she worked in a stationery store.

The family came to Penn Yan in 1981. Her husband, Carl died in 1985. Elizabeth believes she is one of the longest to live at St. Mark’s Terrace. It was her home for 26 years.

Bruce says his mother is very healthy, her only complaint being hearing problems. “She loves to dress up and to go out to dinner.” She is such an avid reader, two or three books a week, that it is hard to keep her in books. When asked what she likes to read, she answered, “mysteries, romance and intrigue.”  Her favorite authors are James Patterson and Mary Higgins Clark. Bruce said he recently brought her a Rex Stout mystery and she was delighted. “I haven’t read a Rex Stout in 50 years,” she said.

Elizabeth was looking forward to a big birthday celebration on Aug. 24. She said family members were coming from all over the country - Seattle, New Hampshire, Boston and Virginia. She has two sons, six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter, all of whom attended the celebration.