Easter Sunday always has been an extremely special day for faith-driven Marguerite Carr Zulker.
However, this Easter is especially significant to Zulker, as today she reaches an important milestone in her life. Today, Zulker, who was born and raised in Williamsport, turns 100 years old.
"I didn't really give a thought to being 100, but it's here," said a broad-smiling Zulker. "When I hit 99, I thought, 'Maybe it will happen.' I just take things day by day."
RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Four generations of the Zulker family attended the recent celebration of Marguerite Carr Zulker’s 100th birthday. Marguerite is the great-great aunt of Mary Lemp and the great-great-great aunt of the Lemp boys. Above, from top left, are Dale Westbrook, Marguerite Zulker’s nephew; and Steve Westbrook, Dale’s son; and bottom left, Nathan Lemp, 4; Zulker; Mary Lemp, Dale’s granddaughter and Steve’s daughter; and Alex Lemp, 1.
The spirited Zulker recently took time out from her busy schedule to meet at her home, an immaculate apartment in Williamsport presently festooned with flowers and birthday cards from well-wishers, including a birthday card from President Barack Obama.
There, she offered some thoughts on turning 100 years old, and also shared some of her past, present and future plans.
"I'm not really sure there's a secret," said Zulker, when asked to comment on what may have contributed to her longevity. "I eat good food. I stay away from salt, junk food and soda - and I don't try and lose weight."
For others trying to live a long life, she advised "living day by day."
She also credits the importance of discipline. "My mother and dad had good discipline. That helps, to have good discipline growing up. That's the answer."
Zulker grew up in Williamsport's East End with her parents and three siblings, all of whom are now deceased. The family moved into town from Trout Run when she was entering high school.
"I graduated from Williamsport High School in the 1930s - that seems like a long time ago," she said with a laugh.
After high school, Zulker soon began working.
"During the Depression, there were few jobs, so I did housework by day. Then, later on in the 1940s, I was dean of women at Church School in Allentown (presently United Wesleyan College)." Her responsibilities, she explained, were to "see that they [the students] studied."
After 16 years in Allentown, Zulker then went to Philadelphia, where for 15 years she worked at First Pennsylvania Bank in the investment research department working with stocks, mergers and notifying people of investments. Then, in 1976, she retired.
"Back then, at 65, you couldn't work any longer," she explained.
Upon retiring, Zulker continued traveling, something she always loved doing. Switzerland, Canada, Florida, the New England states, Washington State and the Smokey Mountains in Colorado are among the many places she has visited in her lifetime.
Then, at the age of 68, Zulker got married for the first time after "falling in love with the right one."
She married Elwood Zulker, whom she met through a former pastor, and they were married for 14 years until Elwood's passing.
Throughout her life, Zulker's faith and family, consisting of many generations of nieces and nephews as well as her "church family" at Faith Wesleyan Church in Williamsport, have been of paramount importance to her.
Recently, 117 people, including former students, friends and five generations from the Carr family, attended a 100th birthday celebration in her honor at Faith Wesleyan Church.
"Whenever people describe Marguerite, one of the first words they use is 'amazing,' " said Faith Wesleyan's pastor, Tim Hartzell. "I have been her pastor for 10 years. I remember when I first came to this church, I purchased flowers for her 90th birthday, and we presented them to her during a worship service. Now, here we are 10 years later, and I have never had to visit Marguerite due to sickness or surgery - in 10 years! And not only is she physically amazing, but she is also spiritually amazing! Her love for God and her church family is abundantly evident. She still attends prayer meeting every Wednesday night - even in the winter when it is cold and snowing!"
Hartzell said that when the church was officially organized on July 11, 1935, Zulker was there.
"As a charter member, she has been a part of the Faith Wesleyan family for nearly 76 years," he said. "She has been a tremendous example of God's love to many people over the years. How 'amazing' that her 100th birthday would land on Easter Sunday! We can hardly wait to honor her as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior."
In addition to the Faith Wesleyan congregation holding Zulker in high-esteem, it readily becomes apparent that her extended family members do as well.
Gerry Shipton of Jersey Shore, whose husband, Scott, is Zulker's great-great nephew, has enjoyed attending several mother-daughter banquets with Zulker.
"When she asked if I'd attend the mother-daughter banquet with her at her church, I answered, 'If you'll be my mother,' " Gerry said.
Gerry said Zulker also is a fabulous pie maker. "She makes any type of pie. She spoils my husband with them. She'll say, 'I have a lemon meringue pie for you. Scott, come pick it up.' "
Recently, Zulker and her great-great nephew also enjoyed taking a car ride together revisiting the Rose Valley area.
When not busy with Bible study, baking and birthday parties - her family is having a birthday celebration for her on April 30 at The Villa restaurant - Zulker enjoys reading.
She now is reading "How Sweet the Sound" by George Beverly Shea, who she explained was the principal singer in evangelist Billy Graham's crusades.
"I got it as a birthday present. It's very good."
She also enjoys doing her own cooking and shopping and remarked, "I like to shop if you can find what you want. I'm glad Kohl's is coming. It's changing Williamsport all for the better."
While she believes her long-distance traveling days may be behind her, she also shared that she would like to go to San Francisco.
"I've never been there. I'd like to see that hill, ride on that trolley," she said.
With no signs of slowing down, she offered, "As long as I take care of myself and listen to the doctor, I'm fine" - for which her family and friends feel undoubtedly blessed.
"She's a Godly lady who has inspired the family to be led to the Lord," Gerry said. "Marguerite is a lovely lady, and she just gets lovelier with age."