Woman celebrates 103rd birthday: ‘I never thought I’d see the day’

MORGANTOWN — Gertrude Gentile has seen a thing or two.

She came up a coal miner’s daughter and a farm girl in flour sack dresses with a penchant for climbing trees and borrowing horses. She’s the mother of four children, a pioneer in the glass industry and a personal acquaintance of Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton.

She turns 103 on Sept. 12. Danke Schoen.

“I sure never thought I’d see that day. Of course, I guess I haven’t seen it yet,” she said with a smile when asked last week about her 103rd birthday.

The secret to her youthfulness isn’t mystical. It doesn’t come from meditations or magic potions — depending on your thoughts on Anheuser-Busch.

Her family chalks it up to sheer orneriness.

She’s been known to offer other explanations.

“When I was getting ready to turn 100, a girl asked me ‘How do you stay so young?’ I said ‘I’ll tell you what, I drink a Bud Light every Friday and Saturday night,’ ” Gentile explained.

Born near Weston in Lewis County, Gentile came to Morgantown as a baby on her mother’s knee when her father took work mining coal on Bertha Hill.

“We were one of the first families to move into the new houses in Bertha,” she said. “It was a nice place. All the houses were white and in front of them was a boardwalk, then the railroad tracks and the river.”

Gentile remembers many of the teachers from her Bertha Hill School by name and tells of families coming together on Sundays for picnics at the church.

“After that, we would come down and walk from Bertha Hill down to, we used to call it Jimtown. There used to be a ferry boat that would come across there,” Gentile said, recalling the weekly trek to her grandmother’s home near St. Mary Church in Star City.

It was in Star City that Gentile would not only assist her second husband, John, in operating Gentile Glass Co., but become an artist in her own right. She’s recognized as the first female maker of

paper weights — a Gentile Glass specialty.

“That’s hot, hard work,” she said of her time in the factory. “But it was good.”

Gentile Glass Co. started in a small building at 416 Industrial Ave. It was later moved across the street to 425 Industrial Ave., until it closed in 2006, three months after John died.

Collectors the world over have Gentile Glass on their shelves. Gentile has dozens of colorful paper weights and other items displayed in her home in Star City. Some of the glass orbs were made by her hands, some are Gentile Glass staples and some were made specifically for her by her husband.

All things considered, Gentile said she got her money’s worth out of life thus far, even if she had to “cut back” on some of her favorite activities.

“I like to go shopping, but I don’t really go anymore since I’ve gotten old,” she said. “Well, I guess I did go once last week.”

She said she sometimes feels like she was given two lifetimes to live one amazing life.

“I guess they say all good things will come to an end,” she said with a grin. “But you sure don’t have to be in a hurry about it.”

Tweet @DominionPostWV. Email bconley@dominionpost.com

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