Married: Frank Westley Merritt on August 3, 1940
Priscilla Anna Steenken competed with her brother William Steenken in pairs figure skating. In 1940 Priscilla was a Physical Education Teacher at Public High School. She is still living on May 1, 2012.
Reaping her rewards Good habits, good diet pay off with birthday milestone
By Erin Thompson
LEWISBURG — Staying active — including playing hopscotch as a child until her shoes wore out — eating well and getting enough sleep are among the things that Priscilla Merritt believes helped her live a long and healthy life.
On Aug. 16, this spry resident of Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village near Lewisburg will celebrate her 100th birthday.
“I didn’t think I’d live this long. .. and it doesn’t feel like I’ve lived 100 years. It’s gone by so quickly,” she said.
“This is my birthday present from the Lord.
“I believe in taking care of my body,” she said. “I eat right, exercise and sleep when I’m supposed to. I don’t think people do that anymore.” She remembers as a child absolutely loving being outdoors, whether it be to swim or go roller skating.
“I also played hopscotch. So much, I wore out my shoes,” she said.
Growing up about 10 miles from Lake Placid, N.Y., Mrs. Merritt can recall birthdays spent with her mother.
“I am grateful to be able to remember growing up,” she said. “Birthdays were special between my mom and me. She took me out in the afternoon and we got ice cream.” She grew up with two brothers, 10 and seven years older.
“Because they were so much older they were very protective,” she remembers.
Being active and outdoors is something she carried on throughout her life.
Until she moved to Lewisburg, about 50 years ago, she taught physical education and served as a substitute at Lewisburg Area School District after that.
Mrs. Merritt and her husband, Frank, later became the first residents to use an independent living cottage at Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village. Her husband of 56 years passed away only six years after the two moved into their cottage.
Although she is now the oldest resident at the center, she only recently moved from the independent living cottage to the personal care center. She helped celebrate the transition by attending the 20-year anniversary of the opening of the independent living facilities.
She now enjoys spending her afternoons playing games such as “Uno,” “500” and “Bingo,” which she says she uses to help herself focus on hearing. She also likes to read and knit blankets for Project Linus.
Even though a heart attack at 97 forced her to give up her Oldsmobile and driver’s license, Priscilla still considers herself independent.
For her special birthday on Monday, Mrs. Merritt was given the opportunity to select the menu, and its one that most dietitians would probably endorse: finger sandwiches with chicken salad, cheese cubes, with a side of shrimp and cocktail sauce.