Rhinelander woman celebrates milestone birthday
Gerry Kucaba prepares to blow out 100 candles with family and friends
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
The year was 1917. The United States had just entered WWI, a postage stamp was 3 cents, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series, actors Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford were stars at the box office, the average cost of a home was $3,200 and Geraldine Kucaba was born.
Geraldine, or Gerry, as she prefers, is celebrating her 100th birthday this weekend in Rhinelander with family and friends. She was born Nov. 5, 1917 in Cicero, Ill., the fourth of nine children. Gerry’s father worked as a stone cutter, and the family raised pigs, geese and turkeys. Everything, she said, was different back then. For entertainment, Gerry and her brothers would meet friends and dance at the local ballroom. Fun in the winter required some ingenuity.
“The boys had ice skates, and I didn’t have them,” she explained. “So what I would do is take their ice skates and put my shoes in them and go.”
Friendly, and with a presence that belies her age, this centenarian was nonchalant about reaching such a milestone.
“I always said if you live to be 90, that’s enough,” Gerry said.
At 19, Gerry met her future husband, Edward, while they both worked in a laundry. They married shortly thereafter, and started a family that today includes three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
What is her secret to longevity? Gerry said she doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink (well, maybe a little) and fished a lot, starting when she was a kid.
“In the spring, when the fish started biting we’d go out there with our big fish poles – we didn’t have those fancy ones,” Gerry recalled.
When their children were young, Gerry and Edward made sure to pass down her love of fishing and began taking weeklong fishing trips to Canada, a tradition that continues to this day. It has only been the last few years that Gerry was unable to make the journey.
“She was one of the best fishermen we had,” said granddaughter Cathy Hoerchler. “My dad said that it was like she had this little fairy next to her. She was always so patient.”
In 1970, Edward and Gerry moved to Wisconsin from Cicero and bought the Three G’s Resort on Lake George, which they operated together for many years. In their motor home, the pair traveled to Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky, to, of course, fish. Edward passed away 15 years ago, but Gerry remained in their home until age 97, and now resides at Friendly Village.
Not many people have the opportunity to blow out 100 birthday candles. Life is good, Gerry said.