Jewell Cardwell

As much as I enjoy bouncing stories in the news off little children — those at the dawn of learning all sorts of stuff — I also cherish, when time and space permit, sharing stories about extraordinary centenarians, those still with exceptional bounce who have experienced a whole lot of stuff worth sharing.

Folks like George “Lefty” Gray and Ella “Mother” Dix, who are each celebrating milestone birthdays this month: George 100, and Ella 102.

George Gray, 100

George Gray, a Master Mason at Victory Lodge 649 in Kenmore, was recently presented with his 70-year pin at the Western Reserve Masonic Home in Medina, where he resides with his beloved Helen (Kepnes), his bride of nearly 73 years. He is also a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Canton.

Longtime friend and helper Debra A. Canale happily filled me in on his biography: “Born in 1913, George served in the 718th Railroad Battalion Army, World War II overseas. He also played professional baseball for the Akron Yankees and the South Boston Wrappers in the ’30s. He was inducted into the Akron Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 and coached Little League baseball for several years in Akron … An avid motorcyclist, you may have seen him riding his Harley Trike right up to the ripe age of 96.”

The Grays lived in the same Kenmore house for more than 60 years until last summer. Both are members of Kenmore United Methodist Church. He retired from Seiberling Tire with 38 years of service.

“George and Helen had one son, the late David Gray; and George had a son from a previous marriage, the late Tom E. Gray,” Canale continued. “They have three grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.”

And there’s this:

“He drove up [to the Masonic Home] to visit his wife three days a week for months until his hip started giving him problems,” Canale shared. “Three weeks ago he moved in there too.”

Ella Dix, 102

Ella (Jones) Dix, whose birthday is today, is such a long-standing fixture (85 years and counting) at Akron’s Phillips Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopalian Church that she’s even credited with helping to raise the child who became the current pastor, the Rev. Sheree LeGrair Winn.

Church member and dear friend Eunice Craig calls that a “blessed turn of events.”

Mother Dix, as she is affectionately called, has served on a number of the church’s boards over the years.

The Rutherford, Ala., native (the oldest of three children) had been married to her beloved Ellis for 60years when he died in 1994. They had no children of their own but claimed many devoted nephews and nieces.

She worked during the Depression in the housekeeping department at Akron City Hospital, later working in private homes.

She was an active member of the Carnation Garden Club of Akron before it was disbanded due to dwindling and aging membership; the club sold her famous Strawberry Tarts to help raise funds for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.

Mother Dix enjoys sewing (she founded the sewing and tailoring classes at her church), ceramics, flower arranging, baking and more. She was instrumental in establishing the food pantry at the church.

“The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to thank the Lord for waking me up,” she said in an earlier interview. “Then I go about the rest of my day thanking Him for keeping me safe. Then at night I pray for everybody in the world, leaving no one out!”

“Mother Dix is past chaplain of the Akron Canton Lay Zone,” said Craig, and “a former choir member, upon whom the church still calls on to render her ministry in song.”

A soft-spoken, yet fiercely independent woman, she continues to live her life by the philosophy that only what you do for the Lord is going to last.

So many celebrations

Given the sheer volume of folks reaching the milestone age of 100 or beyond, I can’t possibly recognize each one with a special story as I had been able to do in the past. The same is true of couples married 65 years and beyond.

So, if you’re interested in saluting the centenarian in your life on his or her birthday or that anniversary couple celebrating 65 or more years of wedded bliss, please email celebrations@thebeaconjournal.com or call 330-996-3360.

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or jcardwell@thebeaconjournal.com.