One hundred and one years ago, New Mexico became the 47th state.
One hundred and one years ago, the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic.
One hundred and one years ago, Woodrow Wilson became the 28th American president.
One hundred and one years ago, in the village of Hancock along the banks of the Delaware River in upstate New York, Wilfred Fritz was born. And in July of 2013, with the help of family members and friends and staff from the Creekside Health and Rehabilitation Center in Carbondale, Mr. Fritz celebrated his 101st birthday with balloons, cake, and certificates of recognition.
Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley was on hand to present Mr. Fritz with a certificate from the county commissioners. Commissioner O’Malley said he was honored to be present at such a happy event, and he asked Mr. Fritz to reveal the secret of his longevity.
“A lot of it’s discipline. My father said to be home at 9 p.m., and I was,” said Mr. Fritz. “And no drinking, no smoking. I never tasted alcohol nor tobacco, and I haven’t missed anything.”
Mr. Fritz continued, “Hard work. Sweat to cleanse the system. Regular attendance at church and worship, that’s important. It needs to be regular!”
Mr. Fritz, who resided in Hancock until 1957, then spent time in Ephrata, PA and Maryland before finally settling in northeast Pennsylvania, was no stranger to hard work. He labored on the railroad as a teenager, then after his marriage supported his family by working as an auto mechanic.
Mr. Fritz’s daughter, Linda Kellam of Milanville, said that her father was always a very hard worker, and a man of strong religious conviction.
Linda’s husband, Chet, concurred. “Dad has always been saved,” he said. “He’s definitely heaven-bound. He was always active in ministry and in the church’s Sunday school.”
Mr. Fritz elaborated, “I never knew what it meant to miss church. My mother put me in Cradle Roll on the day I was born, and I went every step of the way up. Then I taught Sunday School for several years, then became Sunday school supervisor, then became a deacon in the church.”
Mr. Fritz currently attends the Finch Hill Baptist Church every Sunday, and participates in men’s fellowship on Saturdays when he is able.
Brenda Conlon, director of business development at Creekside Health and Rehabilitation, read aloud to the partygoers a proclamation from Carbondale Mayor Justin Taylor. The proclamation mentions that Mr. Fritz was married for 69 years.
Conlon reminisced, “Every morning Wilfred sits with us in the lobby. One day I asked him the secret to his longevity, and he said he never drank alcohol, never used tobacco, and he was married to the perfect woman.”
That perfect woman was the former Inda Maynard, who passed away in 2004, one week shy of the Fritzes’ 70th wedding anniversary.
Mr. Fritz recollected, “My happiest moments were the day I was saved, and the day I was married. I was married to the same woman for 69 years, and if I had to do it again I’d go back and marry the same woman all over again.”
He added, “We didn’t have a great big wedding like most people do, but it took. We weren’t wealthy. We had our garden for vegetables, and had fresh fish from the Delaware. But when I came home from work, there was always a woman, a daughter, and a dog waiting for me at the door.”
As Mr. Fritz relaxed with his daughter and his son-in-law to enjoy a slice of chocolate birthday cake and a cup of black coffee, he accepted handshakes, kisses and birthday greetings from his friends at Creekside.
The room was decorated with balloons and streamers, with colorful tablecloths and birthday hat centerpieces.
Amidst the palpable joy and love in the room sat Mr. Fritz, a man possessing the wisdom, the dignity, and the abiding faith in God that have led him successfully through more than a century of wholesome, honest living. Yet his modest character does not allow him to accept credit for any of it.
“I’ve been serving the Lord for one hundred and one years, and I give all the credit to Him,” said Mr. Fritz.