BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — The parade of fire trucks and police cars, the well-wishes from the University of Notre Dame leprechaun and cheerleaders, and the cards and gifts from family and friends at StoryPoint Community meant a lot to Marjorie Gillig.
But most of all, it was the unexpected arrival of her sons that nearly brought her to tears on Friday, March 31 – her 102nd birthday.
“I can’t believe it. I didn’t know any of the kids were coming,” she said, referring to her adult sons Mike, Tim and Dan, who live out of town and arrived with their spouses for the celebration. They were joined by her son Pat and his wife, Roberta, who live in Waterville, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her daughter Ann and her husband were unable to attend due to illness.
Family has always been at the center of Marjorie’s life – including her 15 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, who all contact her regularly.
“They adore her,” Roberta said. “They always have.”
Marjorie was born on March 31, 1921, in her grandfather’s house in Fremont. Her mom wasn’t doing too well with the pregnancy, so her grandparents were keeping an eye on her. Marjorie had one older brother and was later joined by two younger sisters.
Growing up in Fremont, she attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and graduated from Fremont Ross High School before heading to Tiffin University. She earned a degree in secretarial studies and worked for the Heinz ketchup factory and later for a manufacturer that supported the war effort.
While at Tiffin University, she met Paul Gillig – who transferred from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., after recuperating from a football injury to his shoulder.
On January 15, 1945, they married and moved to Tiffin, building one of the first year-round homes on Lake Mohawk, a private, man-made lake. It remained her home for 74 years ang she made many friends and memories living there.
“It was a great place to raise the kids,” she said of the home.
In the summer, she and the children would head to the lake to swim before breakfast. In the winter, it was ice skating on the lake or sledding down the hill. Throughout the year, the kids would also walk around the lake to the nearby golf course. She loved to golf, as did all the children.
As a child, she began listening to Notre Dame sports on the radio, as her father had attended school there. Marjorie continued to follow Notre Dame and Ohio State sports as well as golf and the Cleveland Indians.
“I mean, the Guardians,” she corrected herself, noting that the longtime name changed in 2021.
In the 1950s, when she and her friends all had young children, they formed a club: the Nifty Fifties. The adults would meet at 4:00 p.m. and head to the bowling alley to bowl two games, then come home and have cocktails, dinner and cards until 11:00 p.m.
“We all had kids, so we couldn’t stay out later,” she said.
Marjorie and Paul also enjoyed spending time dancing, and even made sure that the living room rug could be rolled up so they could use it as a dance floor when listening to big band music.
“I had a great life. We had a lot of fun,” she said.
Yet she also has been through a lot. Their firstborn, Skipper, had spina bifida and died at age 10. In 1976, at age 58, Paul suddenly died at home, leaving her to raise the two youngest children – Tim and Dan – on her own.
“They missed their dad,” she said.
After the kids were grown and out of the house, Marjorie got involved in volunteering in Tiffin at St. Mary’s Church, St. Francis Home and the Seneca County Library, which recently sent her a letter asking her if she’d like to sign up to help.
“I did volunteer work anytime someone needed help,” she said.
Marjorie also was an avid reader and walked 3 miles a day, often with her friend Sally.
Now that she’s a resident of StoryPoint, Marjorie is known as one of the most involved residents, Roberta said. She meets others in the library to play bridge and participates in exercise classes, crafts and entertainment. She also likes to do puzzles and creates pot scrubbers with special yarn to give away.