CLARKS SUMMIT — LaVina Clark Lewis, currently the oldest living descendant of Deacon William Clark, one of the area’s first settlers (and namesake of Clarks Summit and Clarks Green), is looking forward to her 100th birthday, coming up on March 1 of this year.
Although she plans to spend the special day with her family in California, a local birthday party will be held on Feb. 20 at the Chinchilla Hose Company on Shady Lane Road in South Abington Township.
Lewis credits her longevity to her faith, her family, the keeping of an open mind, love and respect of her fellow man and “all that good food we had years ago that didn’t have any preservatives added to it.”
Born on Parker Hill in Waverly, young LaVina spent her childhood attending school in one-room schoolhouses and helping out on her father’s farm. She is one of six siblings, three others of whom are still living: a sister, Betty Dodgson, 86, and two brothers, Amos, 94, and Merle, 98. Her youngest brother Rob and oldest sister Helen both died in 2013.
“We were six children in a large family,” Lewis said. “We were very, very poor, and it took all that mother and dad could do to take care of the kids and earn a living.”
She said her favorite childhood memories come from her family’s time living in Justice, “a neighborhood where all the children would gather together, summers and winters.” Although she never had much time for a social life — she began working around age 12 or 13 and didn’t stop until last summer — she has fond memories of family gatherings during the holidays.
“I think that was the happiest time of my childhood, because other times we were just struggling to make a living,” she said.
She was married to Judson Lewis in 1935 and the couple resided in the area for most of their life together, with the exception of 12 years spent in California.
The Lewis’ opened up the Homestead Kitchen Restaurant in 1974 on the site of the house where her father was born. Although they sold it just three years later, the pair continued to work for the new owners, with LaVina baking her locally-famous pies. They were also the owners of the Summit Diner (now the Silver Spoon Diner) in Clarks Summit for about five years. Never without a job, she worked at several other area restaurants throughout the years, and baked pies and other goodies for five different establishments at one time. She was also employed as a house cleaner.
Judson died in 1987 and the widow now lives with her only child, a daughter, Phyllis Heinz, in the Clarks Summit home the couple built together on Clark land. She has four grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren.
In July 2015, at age 99, she was still cleaning four different houses and baking pies for Sebastianelli’s Restaurant in Scranton, when a growth on her skull, while not life-threatening, caused a balance problem, resulting in her inability to continue working. She said she always enjoyed cleaning and baking and would have continued, had she been able.
“I never, never quit a job, never collected workman’s comp or anything,” she said. “I always had a job.”
While she isn’t accustomed to having time for personal interests and hobbies, she currently belongs to the Tri-county Pinochle Club, and enjoys meeting with the other members twice a month.
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.