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Centenarian Rose and her life lessons

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One in 5,000: Those are the odds that one of us will be a centenarian and live to see 100 years! We exist in amazing times! Each year that passes gives us a better chance of living a longer life!

Most recently, there have been several stories in this newspaper mentioning one centenarian or another. I’d like to add one more to the list – my friend Rose Martinchek. She passed away on June 6 at the age of 102 and gave me some important life lessons that I’d like to share.

So, how do I know her? Well, Rose was the aunt of my childhood friend, Jean. In 1965, Rose and her husband John took on the responsibility of raising their niece Jean (aged 13 then) and nephew Paul (aged 11 then) after the children lost both parents. Their daughter, Lynne, would inherit both a big brother and an older sister.

Rose and I began writing in 2000 after Jean passed away at age 48. It started out as just a few Christmas cards and grew into a series of long letters about family, friends, and life in general.

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Now, I look back on those letters, notes, and cards from Rose. I’m impressed by her sharp wit.
She could really tell a good story on paper! And I admired her steady handwriting. Not bad for age 90 plus!

Rose and John Martinchek often visited Brooksville and Masaryktown in the early 2000s. I was able to see them around 2007-2008 and got this photo.

Rose’s Life Lessons
1. Make the best of it.
Rose’s mother often told her, “Life wasn’t always a bed of roses.” Rose repeated that line to me in a 2017 letter as she reflected on a recent family divorce. Yes, things happen that are beyond our control. You just have to carry on, even when love disappoints. You also have to make the best of it in the worst of times.
In 2012, Rose wrote about feeling helpless as she watched her husband’s health decline. In 2013, she remarked feeling lost and in a “fog” after his passing. After all, they had been married for 70 years! Many letters later, she still commented on the loneliness. Rose wondered if she’d ever get over losing John. Then she wrote, “Enough of a pity party,” and changed the subject.

2. Have fun.
Rose was glad to hear about my 2013 retirement. She felt it was about time for me to take it easy for a change. She loved to hear about our camping trips and other travels. She appreciated getting photos. In 2016 she wrote, “Do it all when you can.” In another letter, she remarked that she was “tired out” after reading about all our recent adventures in Alaska. She was just kidding! Rose had more energy than me at times! In one of her last notes, she said, “Keep it up! Have a lot of fun!”

3. Don’t waste it.
We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours in a day. Can you imagine that amounts to 525,600 minutes in an average year? It sounds like a lot of time until you realize how quickly it passes. In June 2018, Rose reminded me, “You still have a lot of time to keep going, but don’t waste it!”

4. Reconnect with old friends and family.
I could tell that Rose missed her Pennsylvania home. After all, she had lived there 61 years—same house, same street. She looked forward to trips back to her old neighborhood, her old church. It seemed to recharge her batteries. As years went by, she wrote that only a few old friends remained and that she was the last of her immediate family. But she looked forward to “home.” She liked to spend time with various nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. They all reminded her of the family connection.

5. Keep going. There is more to do.
On her 95th birthday, Rose reflected, “I keep wondering why I’m still here.” Then as if in answer to her question, things began to happen. Her three grandsons, all 30-something and bachelors, began getting married.
Then more new family! Rose anxiously anticipated the birth of her first great-grandchild. Cornelia Rose (Nellie) was born in November 2017. Great Grandma Rose was so happy! She got to hold the new baby and make a fuss over her. She got to ride her around. “I drive a mean walker with Nellie in it, ha ha!”
As it worked out, she and her daughter Lynne were recruited as daytime babysitters. It was exciting having Cornelia Rose around the house. At Christmas, family members waited “in line to be able to hold her.”
There was more to do than ever before! Rose didn’t want to miss a thing! Why, in November 2018, there was a first birthday party for her great-granddaughter! Then in December 2018, four generations of the Martinchek and Auth families were together in a church pew! Rose had lived long enough to witness it. She called it a “great event.”
Then in November 2020, along came another great-granddaughter, Lily! Rose would remark, “Got to hold her the other evening. She is so tiny: six lb and four oz., What a joy!” Can you imagine? A tiny baby nestled in the arms of her great-grandmother, who was almost a centenarian? Rose wrote, “Would you believe I’ll be 100 this coming February? I still can’t believe I’m that old!” And yet, a third great-granddaughter would arrive before her 100th birthday.

6. Count your blessings.
Rose knew that despite her ailments, she had it better than most. Through her letters, she reported on nagging colds, allergies, heart attacks and various slips and falls. It might take a while, but she always bounced back and had stories to tell about her various health scares and subsequent recoveries.
She mentioned that several old friends (younger than her) were in nursing homes; others were gone. However, Rose was doing okay. She had made peace with living in Virginia. It wasn’t home (Pennsylvania), but she was “with those who are the joy and love of my life.”
At age 96, she commented, “God has really been good to me!” And about her life, she wrote, “I keep saying that I’m ready to leave this planet, but I changed my mind!”
Rose stayed as long as she could and didn’t want to miss a thing! I count my blessings that I got to know someone like her! Will one of us beat the odds of 1 in 5000? Will we have 100 years of wisdom to share?

Rose and John Martinchek were married on September 14, 1943. This photo appeared in the Pittsburgh Society page along with a 70th Anniversary write-up. A niece arranged the article as a total surprise for them!

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