First Posted: 1/26/2015
NORTH ABINGTON TWP. — Helen Chambers was aware her son, Brian and daughter, Carole and her family were planning her birthday party, but she didn’t expect to draw such a crowd.
In a sun-filled room at the North Abington Township home of her granddaughter, Tara Rosencrance Atkins and her husband, Tim, Chambers relaxed in the “Compass Room” and greeted guests, family and friends who came from nearby and as far away as Seattle, Florida and Pittsburgh to celebrate her 95th birthday on Jan. 24.
Later in the afternoon, after a buffet dinner catered by Eugene Litz of Thirteen Olives, Chambers released 95 brightly-colored balloons into the sky and watched intently as they drifted over treetops and open fields. Her birthday cakes were prepared by Lisa Litz, a pastry chef at the former Patsel’s Restaurant, Clarks Summit.
Also known as Gigi to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Chambers, a lifelong resident of the Abingtons, was born on Jan. 14, 1920 and graduated from Clarks Summit/Clarks Green Jointure in 1938. She recalls the school she attended on Grove Street had “a door for the girls and a door for the boys.”
How does she feel about being 95?
“I feel like I did when I was 94. I’m just a year older,” she said.
The best part of her life, she explained, was when her husband, Lee, was alive.
“We used to camp and travel a lot,” she said, admitting her favorite activity was camping in all kinds of weather. Although she’s not one to watch a lot of television, her favorite show has always been “Wheel of Fortune.”
Her travels have taken her on trips throughout the United States and Canada and abroad to Europe to France, Switzerland, England and Holland. She has played a role in local politics, collected for local charities, served on several committees, including the administrative council of Chinchilla United Methodist Church, and was a board representative of the Scranton Christian Women’s Club.
In 2002, Chambers was named AARP Senior Volunteer of the Month and recognized for her generosity and willingness to help people in need. Prior to receiving the award, she crocheted more than 88 lap robes, afghans and booties that were donated to hospitals, nursing homes and veterans.
She said her greatest accomplishment is her children.
“They’re good Christian children,” Chambers said of her daughter, Carole Rosencrance and son, Brian, who were by her side during the party. She has five grandchildren, Todd Chambers, Tara Atkins, Jody Rosencrance, Tammy Basalaga and Susan Shames, and eight great-grandchildren, Quincy and Spencer Atkins, Caitlin and Molly Chambers, Jackson and Levi Basalaga and Hanna and Jordan Shames.
“I’m amazed she’s as sharp as she is,” Rosencrance said of her mother. “Three years ago she was diagnosed with dementia.”
Chambers moved to Abington Manor, Clarks Summit, two years ago where some of the activities she currently enjoys are bingo, word games and crossword puzzles.
“My legacy from my mother is her craftiness,” Brian Chambers explained. “I don’t crochet. I don’t knit. I don’t sew, but I cook. She was always doing all of those things. I’ve been able to decoupage or wrap presents with a flair, or make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, so to speak. We didn’t come from wealth and we never really had a lot of money, but we never wanted for anything. Even now, I look at what is important to me and it’s not wealth really; it’s more friendship and being kind and doing for others. Getting along and appreciating what you have. Everything else falls into place.”
Helen Chambers’ view of the world today is simple. “It isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse. I think everybody has a much more liberal feeling than it used to be. Anything goes. People are more outgoing and maybe too free with their likes and dislikes,” she said.
And, as for women’s rights are concered, she believes women should have everything men have. “I think we have more than we ever did, but I think we should have more than we do.”