The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 25, 2011

JIM SIEHL | Centenarian brought sunshine to many

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — It is a stretch that Grace Wolford’s photo would appear with Pittsburgh Wheaties Breakfast of Champions Roberto, Franco, Mario, Jagr and Iron Mike along with Penn State’s JoPa and tennis great Andre Agassi.

The display occupies a prominent place in my man’s cave basement office of our otherwise beautiful home.

Grace is included because the photo captures her dynamite smile, fun-loving nature and keen sense of humor as she poses fetchingly in baseball cap and jersey, a ball and glove in her left hand. Scrawled below is “Second Base,” which in the spirit of the moment identifies the position of this former Ferndale High School basketball and track competitor.

But what makes the photo so compelling is her age. How many 100-year-old second basemen do you know? Grace became the first in my circle of friends and family to gain the status of centenarian. But there is another “qualifier.”

Grace would have taken great glee at any suggestion she had anything to do with the professional baseball fortunes of one of the jewels of the Boston Red Sox farm system. But without her progeny, there would be

no Lars Anderson, a 6-5,

200-pound, left-hand-hitting first baseman, who was called up from AAA at the close of the season on what hopefully is a fast track to the majors.

The power hitter is Grace’s great-great-grandson. Lars is the son of Diane Anderson of California, daughter of Greensburg’s John and Barbara Goettlicher. Barbara is Grace’s youngest daughter, formerly of Johnstown. John is well-known as a highly successful former golf pro at Berkley Hills and the Sunnehanna and Rolling Rock country clubs.

The photo first circulated right after Grace marked her 100th birthday at a festive gathering at Laurel View Village near Davidsville, where she became an original resident

19 years ago. Grace went on to log three more mostly pleasant but also frustrating years there before her longing to join those waiting on the other side of the curtain was granted Oct. 7.

Grace bubbled with enthusiasm. She greeted one and all in a beaming manner, a perpetual smile on her lips and eyes that can only be described as sparkling.

Blessed with a delightful personality, Grace made friends easily. She knew how to have a good time and enjoyed Saturday night dancing well into her senior years. Grace was one of those people whose facial appearance defied her years. I can only wonder at how many times people admiringly addressed her with, “You never change. You are just the same.”

Grace was very much a lady and dressed the part. She wore attractive clothes and she wore them every day.

A well-attended memorial service held in the Village chapel had its serious side, but quickly took on a party atmosphere filled with storytelling and laughter as folks spoke into a circulating microphone sharing memories and fond experiences of a life well-lived.

Noting that his aunt always referred to him as the “son she never had,” Bob Barrett of Cone-maugh Township gained a hearty response with his contribution.

He mentioned that Grace’s father lived to be 991/2 and that when Grace attained her

100th birthday, “I told her to keep right on  going because I am going to outlive you.”

Johnny Goettlicher came from California eight months ago to help support his grandmother. Near tears at times, he spoke of  “her elegance, her beauty, her charm,” and then added: “My grandmother was an incredible human being – so sweet, so kind, just a ray of sunshine in each and every one of our lives. In fact, many people, when encountering Gram, would say to her, ‘Here comes sunshine,’ and what a ray of sunshine she was. Her sweet disposition, easy smile, and often a little feistiness thrown in, are some of the qualities I will miss so very much.”

Johnny also provided an insight into Grace’s adventurous side, recalling her visits to California and always being “game” for hiking dirt trails around his sister’s cabin near Lake Tahoe and exploring the hilly streets of San Francisco.

“You certainly could not be any more beautiful and elegant as my grandmother. Even in her final days, many of them were spent in bed still dressed to the nines. She even went to the hair salon not more than a week before she passed.”

John closed: “All of our lives will have a significant void without you around, Gram. But just close your eyes and open up your heart and think of Gram’s beautiful, sweet smile, and this void shall disappear.”

Jean Huff, eldest daughter, summed up her mother’s long and joyful journey: “She lived her life to the fullest.”

Jim Siehl of Schellsburg, formerly of Richland Township, retired in 1991 after 44 years as a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat.