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Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015

Independent 100-year-old is content

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dorothy Hart, who turned 100 years old on February 4, shows a photo throw blanket given to her. She lives with her niece, Joan Koller, rural Fort Scott, right.
(Loretta George/Tribune)
Dorothy Hart has lived a long and satisfying life. The 100-year-old celebrated her birthday with family this past weekend.

"I've lived a nice, happy life," she said.

Relatives from Maryland, Florida, and Missouri converged on the white, two-story farm house that Hart now shares with her niece, Joan Koller and Joan's husband.

All are Pennsylvania transplants, Hart from a little town of about 100 people, called Rock Glen; and the Koller's from Gettysburg.

They came from northeastern Pennsylvania, a coal mining area.

Hart still owns the house she was born in and continued to live in until last summer, when Joan came to get her to bring her to Kansas to care for her.

Rock Glen is a little town, with a post office, a large meeting hall -- "They'd have dances there"-- and a church, Hart said.

Her father was a carpenter.

"He worked by himself...got married in 1882. He bought a house from a neighbor, remodeled it. I was born there and I still own it. He built houses and did everything by hand, no power tools," she said.

The 100 year-old's earliest memory is of a soldier returning home in 1918.

"I remember a World War I soldier coming home in 1918..and all the town coming out to greet him," Hart said. She was five years old at the time.

Fun, as a child, was "gathering kids around...playing games...there was basketball," she said.

In high school, there were plays, dances and picnics, and at the end of the senior year, "We got to go on a trip to Washington, D.C."

Following graduation from Rock Glen High School in 1930, she worked at a store called S.S. Kresge. It is now known as K-Mart.

"I worked there 45 years," Hart said. "I drove a car back and forth everyday. I paid $914 for my first car, it was a black 1940 Chevrolet, with no heater, just a motor and two seats. I started out as a regular employee, then I advanced to an office girl, handling all the money and did bookkeeping."

Shoveling snow was also a duty.

"One day I had to get out in the snow and shovel out to the door, so we could open up," she said.

"Mom had to take on whatever she could, during the Depression....lots of people were hard up. I remember people didn't have a job for ages, you could tell by their clothing."

Her father died in 1942, and she cared for her mother from then on.

"I took care of the property: mowing grass, trimming trees..everything a man did," Hart said.

"I don't know why I didn't get married. I had a couple of boyfriends, but wasn't interested in marriage."

"She was so independent," said her niece, Joan Koller, with whom she lives.

Her longevity, Hart thinks, is because she has oatmeal every morning for breakfast, "Not those greasy eggs," she said.

"She still has her sense of humor, she makes us laugh," Koller said. "She still loves her home back in Pennsylvania, and wishes she could be back there, but she says she is content here."

This past weekend the Koller farmhouse was filled with nine relatives from the east.

"We reminisced about all family times and had a special meal of dishes that Aunt Dot liked...all her favorite foods," Koller said.

The Koller's moved here from Pennsylvania in 2000. Theodore, her husband, works for Wells Fargo and was in the area.

"Betty Hixson had it listed," Koller said. "We bought it, and waited to move for two years until our son graduated from our high school. The people of Fort Scott are kind and helpful...and we don't have all the hustle and bustle of the East."

Hart was showered with cards, flowers, candy and presents for her special 100th birthday. One special present was from Koller's son, Ted Koller. It was a blanket with photos embedded in it of family.

"She said her family can keep her warm now," Koller said with a smile.

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