Members of the Feldmann family, whose roots in Towson extend back 71 years to one of the first houses on Hopkins Road in Rodgers Forge, returned to Towson on Sunday, Jan. 13, to celebrate the birthday of the family's matriarch.
Mary Esther "Essie" Feldmann turned 103 on Sunday. And, as with many of her recent birthdays, her family used it as an annual occasion to gather together and reflect on what Feldmann herself calls "a great life together."
"We had one last year," said Feldmann's son, Jack Feldmann, who lives in York, Pa. "We started doing it when she was 95. I think she's all partied out."
The parties do leave Feldmann a bit exhausted. But they provide an opportunity for something her son said always brightens her day: visits at her home of the last six years, Emeritus of Towson, from 103 years worth of loved ones.
"She just loves to see all her old family and friends, all the neighbors that she lived with," Jack Feldmann said. "When she lived on Hopkins Road, my mother and father were the third family to move in. Even though the second and third generations of families were in and out of there while my mother still lived there, she still has a lot of close friends who come to see her at Emeritus."
Sunday's party was attended by five generations of her family, including two of her children, many of her nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, and both of her great-great-grandchildren.
Loved ones came from Frederick; York, Pa.; Wilmington, Del.; and other places to celebrate the woman who has left an impression for, in some cases, more than half a century.
Mary Esther "Essie" Roche grew up in Mount Washington and graduated from Mount St. Agnes High School in 1929. Essie said she and her eight siblings "made a lot of noise" and were always home for dinner every night.
In 1935, she married Joseph Feldmann. The two moved into their house on Hopkins Road a year later.
Essie Feldmann had three children — Joseph, Nancy and Jack. When Jack Feldmann was in eighth grade at Immaculate Conception School, in Towson, his mother had just finished a school nursing program at Mercy Hospital.
The program called for just 18 months of service, but Feldmann was assigned to Immaculate Conception and stayed as the school's lone nurse for 25 years before retiring in 1981. Her profession made her very popular among her close-knit community.
"We knew everybody in that block, and we were always running back and forth helping each other," Feldmann said. "But they'd always come to me before they went to the doctor."
Feldmann remained at her house for 71 years, and the family that bought her house later came to visit her at Emeritus to thank her for selling them such a wonderful home.
Her other visitors include families she met at Immaculate Conception, the school's staff and her Rodgers Forge neighbors.
"She enjoys being there (at Emeritus) very much because she sees more people there than she would if we brought her up here (to York)," Jack Feldmann said. "If we brought her up here to assisted living, she wouldn't see anyone but me and my wife."