BY RUTH RICE
At 95, Marion Yaple would rather be doing something useful instead of staring at the four walls of her home.
Yaple lives in a cottage at Arbutus Park Retirement Community in Richland Township and is active in volunteer work at the nearby Arbutus Manor.
Her duties include helping at the manor’s beauty shop and gift shop and delivering mail.
“I want to do it as long as I’m able,” Yaple said. “I’m slower than I used to be, but I have no big health problems. I turned 95 in January.”
Yaple first set foot in Johnstown in 1990 when she and her husband, Roger, came to Arbutus to live.
There was a similar retirement home in Meadville, where the couple had lived, but because of zoning problems, building on to the facility wasn’t possible.
The Yaples had a daughter who lived in Berlin and knew about Arbutus, so they came to tour the facility and made the decision to move there.
Mr. and Mrs. Yaple became active with volunteer work within six months to a year of relocating.
“It just seemed to grow,” Yaple said.
Her husband died in 1994 after having health problems from cancer, which was diagnosed in the 1960s.
On Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 to 11:30 a.m., Yaple works in the beauty shop, transporting residents, sweeping hair, taking out curlers, holding trays at the sink so water doesn’t drip onto residents and doing bookwork.
“It’s just any little thing they need,” she said. “This (past) Monday, we had six perms, two colors and nine men’s haircuts. If you were never there, you wouldn’t know there’s a lot going on.”
On Thursdays, Yaple delivers mail to residents’ rooms.
She carries a letter opener so she can open envelopes for those who can’t do it for themselves, and she sometimes reads mail for those who can’t see clearly.
Every other week, the manor’s newsletter is printed, and Yaple delivers it to every resident in addition to the regular mail.
“The newsletter has what’s going on and the menus,” she added.
Every other Saturday and some Fridays, Yaple works from noon to 3 p.m. in the manor’s gift shop, where a variety of baked goods, personal items such as tissues and toothpaste, greeting cards and trinkets suitable for gifts are available.
A perk she receives for her volunteer work is being able to eat in the staff dining room for free after working for three hours.
“That’s two days I don’t have to make dinner,” Yaple said.
Bonnie Camblin, who has been business office manager for 20 years and worked at Arbutus since its beginning, has known Yaple since she arrived.
With 600 hours logged last year, Yaple is tops in volunteer hours, Camblin said.
“Marion has served as auxiliary president for several turns, works with the bazaar in June and started a flea market in October,” Camblin said. “Those are our big fundraisers. The bazaar has a two-day setup, and she’s there from 8 to 4 both days, then there’s the day of the event.”
Camblin said the chief difference between the fundraisers is that the bazaar features food and the flea market features clothes.
At Christmas, Yaple bakes bread for the office staff.
“She’s a strong Christian woman and a good lady,” Camblin said. “She goes above and beyond. I don’t know what we’d do without her. We can always depend on her.”
When she isn’t volunteering, Yaple knits afghans, uses her Kindle to play games and receive messages from family, and works cryptograms – word puzzles in code.
She has knitted a Christmas stocking for each one of her 13 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
“I give it to them at birth and fill it with baby products,” Yaple said. “I’ve got to get busy. I’m expecting a new great-grandchild in June, and my oldest great-grandson is getting married in June.”
Yaple is still able to drive and travels to worship services and activities at Beulah United Methodist Church, Johnstown.
A group called Beulahlanders meets every month at Arbutus for lunch, and Yaple attends.
She and her husband got connected with Beulah when they first arrived in Johnstown because the pastor at the time had ministered in the area where they had lived, and he invited them to attend.
Yaple used to walk from her cottage to the manor for activities and to volunteer, but the past few years she has driven.
“My legs don’t work as well as they used to,” Yaple said.
She told about a service at the manor that drives residents to doctors’ appointments, but she has only taken advantage of it when she had an eye appointment and was advised by her doctor not to drive.
“I don’t even have a handicapped sticker,” Yaple said, thankful for her good health.
A daughter from New York visits every month and the two go out to eat and shop.
All of Yaple’s children live out of the area – a daughter in Illinois, another daughter in New Jersey and Florida and a son in central Pennsylvania.
Her daughter from Berlin died four years ago.
Yaple said she was a World War I baby, born in 1918 in Illinois.
Three months after her birth, her mother died during a flu epidemic and her grandmother brought the infant to central Pennsylvania.
Yaple was raised in Punxsutawney and an aunt and uncle sent her to college to become a teacher.
She taught first, second and fourth grades in Johnsonburg, Elk County.
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