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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2005

Oregon: Resident marks 100th birthday

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although she doesn't own a piano anymore, that doesn't stop Laura Groll Penhorwood from nostalgically drumming her fingers on a table when she hears music at parties as if she's playing her own concert.

And there was a big party for her, complete with music, friends, and family at the Orchard Villa nursing home in Oregon on Dec. 26 - the day before Mrs. Penhorwood's 100th birthday.

"She's still got that little knack for music," said her son, Gene Groll of Oregon. "She couldn't play by ear, but she could play by reading the music. She'd sit and play for hours."

Mrs. Penhorwood was born on Dec. 27, 1904, in Euclid, Ohio. After her parents died when she was 7 years old, she grew up in a Cleveland orphanage until she was adopted by Thomas and Emma Walters and moved to Toledo.

After graduating from Waite High School, she married George Groll in 1923 when she was 19 and moved to Oregon in 1924, where the couple opened Groll's Poultry Farm to sell and dress poultry, her son said, adding that his parents also sold green onions, tomatoes, and potatoes for an extra source of income. George Groll died in 1964.

Mrs. Penhorwood's daughter, Walbridge resident Murel Kontak, 70, said growing up, she remembered her mother cooking a feast every Sunday after returning from St. John's Lutheran Church in Oregon, where Mrs. Penhorwood taught Sunday school for about 10 years.

"She always made a lot of gravy," Ms. Kontak said. "And she always went to church and read the Bible."

Gene Groll said his mother worked as a housewife until World War II, and then worked as a machine operator at a Toledo factory to make artillery shells, but still had the desire to have her own career.

At 53, Mrs. Penhorwood graduated from the Riverside School of Nursing in Toledo with a degree and went to work at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Oregon. "She wanted to do something different," her son said. "She's a feisty little thing."

He said Mrs. Penhorwood enjoyed traveling in the United States, but had always enjoyed visiting Florida, so she moved to a trailer park in Cortez, Fla., in 1959, and would visit her children here during the summer.

Mrs. Penhorwood then married William Penhorwood, and the couple resided in Florida together until Mr. Penhorwood died in 1984.

In her spare time, Gene Groll said his mother enjoyed walking and was "quite a crocheter," because she used to make her three children clothing out of chicken feed bags during the Great Depression.

Since then, Mrs. Penhorwood's family has grown considerably. Her three children include Mr. Groll; Mrs. Kontak; and Mrs. Kontak's twin sister, Walbridge resident Berle Chesher, 70. She also has 10 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and seven great-great grandchildren.

Mrs. Penhorwood lived in Florida on her own until she was 93, then moved back to Oregon to live at the Luther Hills assisted living facility before moving to the nursing home in 1997.

Gene Groll said Mrs. Penhorwood recently underwent surgery for skin cancer, but was doing well enough Dec. 26 to attend her birthday party.

"She is a very lovable person," her son said, "and I don't think she has an enemy in the world."



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