In early April I was privileged to view a televised news story celebrating the arrival of the first cell phone 40 years ago. That antiquated gadget was a large, cumbersome piece of equipment — quite expensive and only affordable to a limited number of persons — in comparison to the small, refined cell phones people carry and depend upon today in a world that grows more hectic every year.
The same week I attended funeral services for Susan M. (Kern) O'Neil, a long-time resident of Meyersdale in Somerset County. The service was conducted at Susie's beautiful country church, just outside the village of Glen Savage in a scenic area of the Allegheny Mountains. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church — Susie's lifetime congregation — hosted the service and a fellowship meal in a closely-knit community where Susie came to live as a youngster of two years and 11 days. She was born on Feb. 14, 1913, to a German family while they were residing in Russia.
Her pastor, the Rev. Paul E. Yanke officiated and titled his sermon "How Blessed." He elaborated upon many of Susie's endearing qualities while also sharing some technological advances Susie and her generation experienced. The Rev. Yanke proclaimed that Susie was part of a generation witnessing the most technological advances of any generation that has ever lived.
The Rev. Yanke enjoyed visits with Susie while she was living in her Meyersdale home and later as a resident of the Golden Living Center. The visits were times for sharing incidentals about life, for Susie to share her strong faith, and often for the two of them to sing together some special uplifting songs of the church. He often received the blessings from visiting with the beloved oldest member of his congregation, who continually lived out her faith.
The Rev. Yanke reminisced about Susie's humble beginnings. Susie had shared that in her youth during good weather; she carried her one pair of shoes to school or church and then put them on once she arrived. That way they lasted longer and they often could be passed on to a younger sister.
In winter for the most part, there were no snow days from school. You went even if you had to wade through waist-deep snow. Upon arrival the youngsters sat huddled around the pot bellied stove to get warm.
Growing up on the farm with her parents, Fred and Mollie (Woida) Kern, there were always chores to do, never much money, but always enough food and a roof over one's head. Instead of feeling poor, Susie and the majority of her generation felt richly blessed for the rich experiences they obtained through their family life.
Susie experienced so much in her life time as shared from these quotes from the Rev. Yanke's reflections: "She was about 2 when World War I broke out, and about 7 when it ended. She was 17 when Wall Street crashed in 1929, and she lived through the Great Depression in the early 1930s. When she was young, farming was all done by hand or with horse power. Kerosene lanterns provided light and cows were milked by hand.
Susie saw tractor farming become a reality. She witnessed the Ford Model T come into being, and from 1927-1931 the Ford Model A became the most reasonably priced family car because of the assembly line. She saw travel change from horse and buggy, to open cars, and to closed-in cars. (Her own son, W. Dean O'Neil, operated a Ford franchise for many years in Meyersdale.)
Electricity became available to rural settings, especially farms which forever changed the way a lot of chores were done. Into the great 1950s she saw the real development of plastics, the change from the wringer washers of the 1940s to the automated washing machines of the 1950s. Great cars like the Ford Fairlane and the 1957 Chevy Impala arrived on the scene.