School celebrates a centenarian

Retired herb farmer marks his birthday at Kingsville Elementary

January 14, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Lewis Pearce Sr. -- a centenarian who learned his ABCs in a two-room schoolhouse in Glen Arm -- got sweet and melodic birthday greetings from pupils at Kingsville Elementary School yesterday.

Children from all grades lined up in the Baltimore County school's auditorium and presented Pearce, a retired herb farmer, with gifts that included jars full of M&Ms -- one for every day of his life, or 36,500 candies plus one for each leap year since 1900 -- and 100 fireplace matches to keep him warm this winter.

Kingsville first-graders sang Pearce a song and gave him a paper cake with 100 candles. Second-graders collected money to buy a sapling and plant it in Pearce's honor. He turned 100 Wednesday.

"We'll plant it in the spring when the time is right. And we know that little tree will grow with all its might," the second-graders sang. "Mr. Pearce, we'll dedicate our tree in honor of you. And we hope that it will live to be 100, too."

At Kingsville Elementary, Pearce has long been somewhat of a celebrity. His six grandchildren and a great-grandchild attended the school.

In the midst of the noise and excitement, Pearce sat peacefully on the stage, surrounded by two of his three sons -- Lawrence, 67, and Morris, 77. Tucked in the audience were other relatives, many of whom live within "a stone's throw" of the family patriarch.

"It all sounds like a beehive to me," said Pearce, who doesn't hear very well but sees without eyeglasses, cuts firewood, and says he has never had a headache. He lives in a stone house he built by hand during the Great Depression. The watercress and herbs he used to grow on his farm were vital to hundreds of Baltimore restaurateurs and hoteliers.

"He told us there wasn't anything else to do, so he built a house," said Lewis Pearce III, Pearce's grandson.

The grandson said that when his grandfather was 95, he climbed on the roof of his Kingsville house to inspect the chimney. He snacks on hunks of Hershey's chocolate and vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

Pearce takes care of his wife of 78 years, Laura, who's 97. She has Alzheimer's disease and could not attend the celebration. "I do all the work around the house," he said. "I do all the cooking and the cleaning."

The birthday celebration afforded the Kingsville pupils an opportunity to reflect on what it means to live 100 years -- a span that some could barely fathom.

"It must feel weird," said second-grader Ryan Delcher, 7.

"I think I might feel tired," said second-grader Becky Boyd, 7. "I'd want to go to bed."

When asked if he would like to live to be 100, second-grader Eamon Muller, 7, said, "Sure, I'd get a lot of chocolate."

During the birthday party, a group of third-graders dressed in chef's hats and cooking aprons, "cooked" a longevity stew for Pearce -- filling a paper cooking pot with ingredients such as "a can of good health," "4 cups of love" and "5 tablespoons of fresh air and sunshine."

First-graders presented Pearce with a banner covered with "100 helping hands."

Said first-grade teacher Stacey Eppley: "Getting 100 hands on there was tough. Finger paint was everywhere."

Pearce loved it all. Before he left, he let it be known.

"Thank you all," he said.

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