VERSAILLES — Juanita Gerling, formerly of Versailles and now a resident of Heartland of Greenville, turns 100 today.
The former educator was born Aug. 9, 1915, one of eight children of the late Theodore and Anna (Poly) Baltes.
She is still known by many as “Doll.”
“When I was born, a neighbor came over and said I looked like a little doll and I had that nickname from then on,” she said.
Gerling said she had taught everything for awhile, but then along came departmentalization. And, she was not too fond of that.
“I hated it,” she said. “I taught social studies.”
“Mom only went to eighth grade and after, we kids were in school, she got her high school diploma, went to college and taught for 26 years,” son Bob said. “She taught one year in Ansonia, and the rest at parochial and public schools in Versailles.”
She married Albert Gerling in 1937 on Thanksgiving Day, following a Scarlet Fever quarantine. He died in 1978.
They met at a dance in Newport, Ohio.
“His neighbor and I were together and she introduced us,” Gerling recalled.
She is now the matriarch of a five-generation family. Her four children are Doris Kovacs, Marilyn Barge, Bob and Denis, with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren rounding out the family.
Her daughters are nurses, while Denis works at Midmark and Bob is retired from General Motors.
The only one of her children she taught in school was Denis.
“He tried to pull cuties,” she recalled.
She believes she has lived so long because she never smoked. And, she sang.
“I sang all of the time…I sang everything,” said the centenarian, who was a member of St. Denis Catholic Church Choir for 50 years.
One of her favorite memories is climbing a windmill at the age of around 10.
“My brothers [four of them] couldn’t do it and I wanted to show them I was braver than they were,” said Gerling, who was the fourth oldest child and now the only one living.
“Mom saw the K.K.K. march in Versailles and burn a cross near where the Crystal Ball was in Frenchtown,” Bob said. “She remembers it scared her.”
Her children are still running into someone who remembers her as “being the best teacher they ever had.”
Gerling loved to sew, paint and work on genealogy. She also liked to bake pies.
One day she said she baked pies and had them on the table when the flue on the stove exploded, covering her newly-baked pastries.
Gerling has published two books, the Poly and Baltes genealogy books, and partnered with someone from Indiana on a Dapore book.
“She got on computer and researched it,” a family member said.
She also noted that she taught herself to paint,
“I painted the Frenchtown Church, Holy Family,” she said. “We lived in the former parsonage built in 1830 in Frenchtown where Third Base bar is today. Dad had a tailor shop across the road.”
Gerling and her husband liked to go on vacation after he retired. They went to Charleston, South Carolina, to visit their daughter and traveled out West.
Yes, Gerling is 100 but she’s not the first one in the family to reach that milestone.
Her mother’s sister, Adela Hoke, lived to be 100, and Gerling’s own mother was close to 100 when she died. Her father died at the age of 63.
Gerling has resided at Heartland of Greenville for two months but before that lived on her own at home with “Visiting Angels” checking up on her.
“She was 95 when she said she wouldn’t drive anymore,” Bob said.