Carroll County Times

Longtime Westminster resident, once named 1939 Jitterbug Queen, celebrates 100th birthday with breakfast at Bob Evans

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As Clara Schaeffer celebrated her 100th birthday Thursday, she recited advice her mother often gave her: “Be yourself, don’t try to be something you’re not, and respect everyone.”

Schaeffer, a 97-year resident of Westminster, said she’s tried to live her life by her mother’s philosophy. Schaeffer celebrated her milestone birthday at the Bob Evans restaurant in Westminster, where she has visited twice per week since it opened 24 years ago.


“Every time we go there I tell her teasingly that it’s like she’s a celebrity … and it just gives her a wonderful feeling to know people care about her as much as she cares about people,” said Schaeffer’s daughter, Barbara Horneff, 75.

Schaeffer said her upbringing played a big role in developing her personality. She was born June 30, 1922, to Vincent and Josephine Valianti. Her parents had moved to Baltimore from Italy in 1913. Her father was a tailor and her mother worked as a seamstress.


“They started out here working in Baltimore City — back then, you had to have a sponsor and job to come here. They spoke no English and learned English when they got here. … It wasn’t easy, but they made a good life,” Schaeffer said.

The family moved to Westminster when Schaeffer was 3 years old. She grew up with seven siblings.

Schaeffer attended Westminster High School, where she was named the 1939 Jitterbug Queen, and graduated that same year. She loved to dance and was known as the “life of the party.”

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“There weren’t too many dancers back then. When I graduated out of high school everybody wrote something in my yearbook about my jitterbug,” she said with a laugh.

Schaeffer also attended St. John’s Catholic School, and later worked there as a teacher. Her other jobs, she said, included stints at Hartz’s sewing factory, the Congoleum defense plant and the Maxwell House coffee factory.

Schaeffer still loves to watch football and said she is looking forward to the NFL season in the fall. She has followed the Ravens with great dedication since they were founded as the Baltimore Colts in 1947.

Schaeffer raised four children — Barbara, 75, Richard, 73, Robert, 71, and Susan, 69 — all of whom attended her birthday party Thursday. She also has seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

“She is an inspiration each and every day for how she lives her life and how she has lived her life,” Horneff said. “She’s instilled that in each of her children and we have promoted her message of positivity within our own children. … Her legacy will always live on in us and our children.”


Stephanie Schaeffer called her mother-in-law’s birthday party “a hit,” saying she had a “grand time.”

“Clara is loved by so many in the community,” Stephanie said. “She has many life stories of the community and the adventures of life in Westminster.”