Woman can't sit idle for 100th birthday CENTRAL COUNTY--Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

January 21, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

Ellen Sheppard will turn 100 Sunday, and she's not nearly done yet.

There's Scrabble to play, to keep her mind sharp, she says, there's reading and Bingo and visits from her son.

And there are tables to move. Just last week, Dagmar Marrero, activities assistant at Meridian Nursing Center in Severna Park, walked into a social room and gasped when she found Mrs. Sheppard moving long tables together for community games.

"I can't sit idle," says Mrs. Sheppard. "I've got to have something to do."

The embroidered pillow on her bed announces "Welcome to Ellen's place," and the room is inviting, with family pictures and a Scrabble game, deluxe edition. Most welcoming is Mrs. Sheppard herself, attractive and white-haired, clutching a worn black leather Bible and quick with the jokes.

"You sure you've got enough paper?" she interrupts an interview to ask. "I've done a lot of livin.' "

Friends of 60 years are coming to her birthday party Sunday, and the nursing home is holding another party a week later. Mrs. Sheppard dismisses her 100th with a smile.

"I don't see much to it," she says. "It's just another day. The Lord's been good to me."

She's been active since she was born into a Baltimore family with nine children. At age 12 she went to work in a factory on Monroe Street, bringing home $2 a week. Her mother gave her 10 cents weekly allowance, which she spent going to the silent movies.

"The blind man played the piano, and of course the pictures were in black and white. It was the only amusement we had," she recalls.

She lived with her parents into her 20s, distinguishing herself by winning a silver loving cup for ballroom dancing. "We went every Saturday night, and I loved it, all the dances," she says.

At age 24, in 1917, she married Roland Hickman. A year later, her only child, Albert, was born.

The marriage didn't last, and after a divorce, she married Milton Ward in 1930. Nine years later, she lost him to typhus fever.

Five years later, she married George Sheppard. "We'd grown up together and gone to the same dances, but I didn't notice him. One day he put his head in the front door and said, 'Aren't you one of the Milholland girls?' "

A year later, they married, and "I had him 23 good years," she says.

After retirement, the couple moved from Odenton to Florida.

Her husband died shortly after the move. Mrs. Sheppard was by then in her 70s, but she wouldn't take it easy. She lived in Miami Beach, near a park, where she and friends took an exercise class under an instructor who had been a PT instructor for the army.

"He thought he still had those men," she jokes. When she was 80, he picked her to be his substitute when he couldn't teach. She led the exercises for 12 years.

"I never thought of my age. Isn't that better than doing this?" she asks, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes.

At 93, she kept her own apartment, cooking, cleaning and shopping for herself.

When the housekeeping became too much seven years ago, Mrs. Sheppard called her son, who brought her home to PTC Maryland.

Other Meridian residents often ask Mrs. Sheppard how old she is.

"I tell them, and their eyes fly open," she says. "I've lived a full life, but my friends say, 'You're going to live to be 120.'

"Maybe I will."

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