Mars woman reflects on her life as 100th birthday nears

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Growing up on a farm was hard work for Edna Grubbs Keil and her eight siblings, but what didn't hurt them made them all stronger.

Keil will turn 100 on Oct. 13 after spending time with her family and friends at an afternoon reception at Concordia Lutheran Ministries in Mars on Oct. 12. Daughter Janet Braun of McCandless, stepdaughter Ruth Ann Wilson of Mars and her other children planned the event. Many of her 10 grandchildren and 14-great-grandchildren also will attend.

“'You either work, or you don't eat,' my father used to say,” Keil recalled of days on the Grubbs Farm in McCandless, where the family raised dairy cows and grew vegetables.

The original house and barn are still standing.

Keil's parents were Leeland and Minnie Grubbs. Her mother was a member of the Pearce family. Two roads in McCandless carry on the families' surnames.

The six girls and three boys pitched in on the farm work. There was no gender bias.

“We did everything, male and female, and when you were done working, you were tired. But we had enough of us to play,” she said.

The big walnut tree on their property was great for swinging really high, she said.

In autumn, they made apple butter in the yard, and as needed, they churned fresh milk into butter. On Sundays, the family hopped into the carriage to travel to services at Cross Roads Presbyterian, the first church in Pine Township. There wasn't enough room for all 11 of the family members to make the trip, so they took turns at worship.

She attended classes in the Walters School House near North Park. Her high school days were spent at the former Perry High School, which was in Ross Township.

“She walked about three miles to Perry Highway and then took a street car,” said Braun, 70, of McCandless.

After high school, Keil returned to the farm to work. On May 24, 1934, she married Charles Harbusch and raised a daughter and a son. In 1965, she married Wilbur Keil after her first husband died, and her family grew by four: Ruth Ann, Barbara, Charles and Robert.

Entertainment was simple then. She remembers men pitching horseshoes and lots of singing — mostly hymns. But a mention of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” brought a smile to her face.

“I had two good husbands,” Keil said. “They were both champions.”

She enjoyed her step-children as well.

She said her faith in God has gotten her through a lifetime.

“I never thought I'd live to be 100,” she said. “I had a couple of operations.”

Keil had lived independently until she was 90. Braun and her husband cared for her for almost nine years, and Concordia has been her home for about 18 months.

She's never without family visitors at the personal care home.

“We're very blessed,” Braun said. “She's a remarkable example.”

Wilson agreed.

“Hard work and faith got her through,” Wilson, 74, said. “She's been very determined.”

Still with her unflagging spirit, Keil reflects on a life of “too many good memories. I had a good life,” she said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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