PITTSTON — Fern Klaproth and Don Cavanaugh have a few things in common: they were both born in January, they grew up in Greater Pittston, and they are both in their mid-90s.
It is because of their age the two members of the Pittston Active Adult Center, along with several others, were honored before a special lunch in front of their peers Wednesday.
The center recognizes those who have reached that milestone every May, according to center director Connie Kokinda.
Honored center members included Klaproth, 95; Cavanaugh, 96; Josephine Klimek, 90; Alberta Kidlo, 90; Catherine Haddock, 93; Mary Hadley, 90; Tom Kokinda, 93; George Haydu, 92; Lucy Murtha, 91; and Frank Onda, 90.
Unable to attend were Chester Montante, 97, and Mary Vargo 92.
Tom is Connie’s husband, and she joked that he is always bragging about how he doesn’t look his age.
“He’s very proud of his age because he certainly doesn’t look it,” she said. “He likes to get people to guess how old he is. He’s 93 and he’s very proud of his age.”
While most of the honored seniors were still in their early 90s, Klaproth and Cavanaugh were no strangers to the recognition.
“It’s very nice,” said Cavanaugh of being recognized by his peers. “I always enjoy it.”
Cavanaugh, of Wyoming, was born in January 1920 and went to St. John the Evangelist High School in Pittston. Klaproth, of Hughestown, was born in January 1921 and went to Hughestown High School.
After high school, Cavanaugh went right to working in the auto industry while Klaproth pursued nursing at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital Nursing School and enlisted in the Navy when she graduated.
“The second World War broke out my senior year and after I graduated I went into the Navy Nurse Corp for four years,” she said. “I was out on the west coast in Oakland, California and after that, I was in Bremerton, Washington.”
Klaproth eventually returned to Pennsylvania and worked as a nurse in Norristown before retiring in 1983 and moving back to Greater Pittston.
She never married or had children of her own, but Klaproth said she was one of six children growing up, so she has plenty of nieces and nephews that she spoiled over the years.
“They were an outlet for my maternal instinct,” she said.
Like Klaproth, Cavanaugh also served in the military. In the 307 Infantry Division of the Army, he was stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Although he never completed high school, Cavanaugh and worked various jobs in his life such as working in the tobacco industry and American auto industry. He also worked as an expediter in Tobyhana and as a security guard at a nursing home in Wilkes-Barre.
He had one child that was born premature and died.
Today, both seniors are enjoying their lives as nonagenarians with their friends at the Pittston Active Adult Center, where they enjoy mingling with others close to their ages.
“This is a very active center,” said Klaproth. “I give credit to Connie Kokinda, the director. She really does a wonderful job here and I feel there’s something for everybody here. I think we have one of the better centers around here.”
“I think it’s the biggest,” responded Cavanaugh.
Connie was flattered by the members’ remarks, and said she does whatever she can to keep all of her members active no matter their age.
“I really care about my people and I do try to, not only come up with activities for the more active seniors, but keep everything going for people who are not that active,” she said. “The more active the center is, the happier I am. I also want to give my volunteers credit giving the opportunity to do these things. That’s why we have all of these classes, because we have volunteers willing to teach these classes. We have great, great volunteers at the center.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher