West Pittston woman celebrates 100th birthday at Falls Active Adult Center


By Jimmy Fisher

jfisher@timesleader.com

Singer George Rittenhouse, left, sings Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’ to 100-year-old Helen Dietrich of West Pittston at the Falls Active Adult Center during a party in her honor on Thursday.

Helen Dietrich, left, and her family and friends react upon seeing her birthday cake.

Helen Dietrich of West Pittston opens a birthday card during her 100th birthday party at the Falls Active Adult Center on Thursday.

Helen Dietrich looks over a photograph and card she received from The White House for her 100th birthday.

Helen Dietrich, third from left, stands with her family at ther 100th birthday party. From left, Ron Dietrich, son; Nancy Dietrich, daughter-in-law; Helen Dietrich; Sandra Burchardt, daughter; Ron Dietrich, grandson; Hans Burchardt, son-in-law.

FALLS — It was June 25, 1915 that Helen Dietrich was born. It was June 25, 2015 that she celebrated 100 years of life.

Helen, of West Pittston, celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday at the Falls Active Adult Center where she was surrounded by members of her family and friends.

The celebration kicked off with singer George Rittenhouse performing songs for Helen and the rest of the center and was then followed by presentations to Helen of cards, a big birthday cake, a proclamation by state House of Representatives on behalf of state Rep. Aaron Kaufer and a letter from President Barack Obama himself.

While reaching the age of 100 is a huge milestone, Helen had two simple words when asked what it meant to turn that age.

“Don’t ask,” she said.

Born in 1915, just three years after the sinking of the Titanic, Helen has been around to see many famous events in America’s history.

She’s seen two World Wars, the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, 9/11 and many other great happenings. Helen has also been around long enough to see 17 United States presidents.

Among other things she’s been around to see was television being put in homes, the evolution of phones and how people communicate with one another through modern day technology.

“When you think of what I’ve seen, 100 years is unbelievable,” she said. “When I was very, very young and I went to my grandmother’s out in the country there was outdoor plumbing. That is something.”

Helen grew up in Scranton and graduated from Scranton Central High School in 1933 and was fourth in her class.

After she graduated, Helen married her husband Ronald Dietrich, who passed away five years ago at the age of 97. They were married for 77 years.

Helen worked as a librarian while Ronald worked as prudential agent and a volunteer fireman, and the two eventually moved to West Pittston where they would raise their three kids Ron P. Dietrich, 79; Sandra Burchardt, 74 and Paul Dietrich, 72.

Ron currently lives in Falls, while Burchardt lives in Clarks Summit and Paul lives in York.

“She has been an invaluable mentor,” said Burchardt or her mother. “She’s the person that is a role model for, I would say, keeping the family together and basically showing us how to live a gentle and kind life.”

With now 100 years of experience and life, Helen has been around to see the good and the bad, but she feels more recently there has been a lot of bad in the world.

“I think violence has increased,” Helen said. “Violence is just to me has increased worldly, not just here. I wish people would start to agree and stop this. Peace among all people, all religions, all colors — to me that’s utterly insane, the difference in all this.”

Each decade has brought something different to the table in terms of growth in human nature, but the decade that sticks out to Helen the most is the ’60s.

She said it was the decade that there was growth in her own household.

“My children were growing and they were becoming adults,” said Helen. “They were getting married and having children and eventually having grandchildren.”

One of Helen’s favorite hobbies is painting, which Burchardt says her mother didn’t start doing until she turned 55.

“She was very late getting started with her art and she never had any formal lessons,” said Burchardt. “She basically took books from the library where she was a librarian and learned on her own.”

Helen’s family branches out to, not only her three children, but to her six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Although she has been around long enough to see her children and grandchildren make their own decisions and start their own lives, Helen is still never shy to spread some advice.

Her biggest message is to just enjoy life and realize that not everything will be perfect.

“Enjoy as much of life as you possibly can,” Helen said. “Also, realize that life is never a bed of roses, you’re going to have problems… To be alive is to have problems, and you have to grow with them and kind of think of the better things in life. Think of the wonderful things you’ve been granted and you just have to kind of know that you’re not the only one who has issues.”

Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher

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