There is no secret to longevity, but enjoying everything you do in life is a good start, says Amarilla "Rilla" Starr, a Monclova Township resident who recently turned 100 years old.
Born Amarilla Agner on Nov. 5, 1905, Mrs. Starr sat in her daughter's living room on a recent warm November afternoon and admitted that she had no specific advice on living to an old age, which often eludes many people.
"Don't make a labor of life. Just make it as pleasurable as you can," she said casually. The first child of seven, Mrs. Starr was born on a farm in Columbus Grove, Ohio. Her family lived in Michigan for a short while before returning to Ohio.
"A lot has changed," she said of the developments that she has seen in her lifetime. As she chatted with her daughter and her granddaughter, she recalled a time when horse and buggy was the main form of transportation.
"That is how we used to get around," she said.
Her father, a small-scale farmer, moved the family to just outside of Saginaw, Mich., during the homesteading rush when he tried to start a farm on 80 acres of land.
"We had a regular vineyard, which had a lot of apple trees and some cows," she recalled. "It was really nice because of the woods around it." But before her father could further develop the land, he died when she was 11 and the family had to move back to Ohio.
When her mother returned the family to Ohio, Mrs. Starr had to stop schooling and took up working with her mother at a cigar making factory to support the family.
"She had to help raise the family and she has since felt responsible for her siblings," said Rose Pieh, her daughter.
It was during that time when she met her husband, Don Haynes Starr, an engineer on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
"He asked her if $50 would be enough for a wedding and she said all he needed was $5, which was a good thing because all he had was $5. He had lost the rest," Stacy Stull, her granddaughter, recalled from family lore as her mother and grandmother listened in amusement.
Mrs. Starr married her husband Don on July 24, 1929, and he died in 1975. A mother of three, she said she was a homemaker for most of her life and her greatest achievement was "raising a Christian family."
A longtime member of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Lima, where she taught Sunday school for more than 40 years, Mrs. Starr said, "I always reminded my children about God." When she was 70 years old, a group of women in her church went on a tour of Europe and Israel, where she said she was excited to "walk on the same ground that Jesus walked."
The family will hold a birthday party for Mrs. Starr at Hope United Methodist Church, in Whitehouse on Nov. 27. "We've sent out more than 100 invitations," her daughter said.
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