A ‘wonderful Life:’ Hazleton Woman Celebrates 108th Birthday

February 15, 2019
A ‘wonderful Life:’ Hazleton Woman Celebrates 108th Birthday

HAZLETON — Eva Jane Sharpless says she can sum up her life with one word.

“The word is ‘wonderful.’ Remember that movie? ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’ Well, that’s me,” she said.

Born in 1911 during the presidency of William Howard Taft, the life resident of Hazleton turns 108 today.

“I had a very wonderful and happy life,” she said. “I had my husband (the late Samuel H. Sharpless) and in my heart I loved him so much. Then I had children and grandchildren. I’m very contented.”

She often thinks that happiness is key to her long life.

The former Eva Dennis, she was married to Samuel for 60 years before he passed away at the age of 82.

“I thank God that I had him. I wish he was still here,” she said.

Samuel worked a number of jobs as a young man and eventually invented a machine to resurface bowling lanes. At one time, the machine was responsible for sanding 80 percent of the world’s bowling lanes.

“He would get a pencil and paper and sit down and draw,” Sharpless said. “Right before he died, God bless him, he was trying to build a new machine to resurface bowling lanes. My husband could do anything. He was a very bright man.”

At the home where she’s lived for 85 years, Samuel installed a special safety railing at the top of the staircase and designed an apparatus that keeps icicles from smashing through windows.

“He came up with anything and everything. I can’t praise my family enough,” she said. “I don’t mean to brag. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging.”

Once Samuel got his business — the Sharpless Co. — off the ground, Eva remembers he took her to look at new houses.

He said she could choose whichever one she wanted. But she didn’t want to move.

“My house makes me very happy,” she said.

Because her widowed father suffered a stroke and was unable to work, a young Eva took a number of jobs to support the family.

“Without that Social Security, what would we have done? We would have to put in a poor order,” Eva said.

She remembered working the steam table at the Hazleton YWCA when she was 19. She also worked at a small hotel in Lehighton.

“I had to work. It was the Depression,” she explained.

At the hotel, which was similar to a bed-and-breakfast, she was responsible for cooking, cleaning and just about everything else. She remembers having to wash and iron bed sheets.

“That was a toughie,” she said.

She worked at the hotel for about two years. She recalled walking to the train station with her suitcase on Sundays to catch a ride to Hazleton.

Eva said she is proud of her son, Robert, Hazleton, who took over the family business, S.H. Sharpless & Son, and her daughter, Nancy Crullen, Saratoga Springs, New York, who was a nurse.

She delivered Robert in the attic of the Corrigan Maternity Hospital on North Church Street, where the former St. Joseph’s Hospital stands today. She gave birth to Nancy in an upstairs bedroom.

“At that time, after you had a baby, they’d keep you in the hospital for 10 days. I couldn’t leave my little son,” she said of her choice to deliver Nancy at home.

Eva is a member of Christ Lutheran Church, Hazleton, and enjoys watching “Judge Judy” and the news.

She has a sister, Ann, of Far Rockaway, New York, who is 103 years old. She has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Family and friends will celebrate her birthday with her. She said she is looking forward to her visitors, the cake — and her favorite: butter pecan ice cream.

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