UNIVERSITY PARK — It was the start of the Bill OBrien era, and the first Penn State season opener without Joe Paterno since 1949.
But Saturdays football game between the Nittany Lions and Ohio University Bobcats was historic for another reason.
Ruth Dreibelbis, of The Inn at Brookline Village, attended on her birthday her 106th.
Her son, Galen Dreibelbis, brought her to his Beaver Stadium suite for the opener, as he has for the past 11 years. She watched OBriens debut as head coach and successor to the late Paterno as one of the oldest people, if not the record-holder, to see a game at the stadium.
Well-wishers offered their congratulations in the elevator up to the skyboxes and then as she sat in her wheelchair, high above the field, taking in the action.
Shes like a queen bee, Galen Dreibelbis said. Everybody flocks to her.
At halftime, family members gathered around and presented a vanilla cake frosted in blue and white.
Its wonderful, said the guest of honor, who enjoyed a slice lined with raspberries. Ive had a wonderful family. They come often, and theyre such great company.
Lindi Dreibelbis, one of 20 grandchildren, flew in from Los Angeles days earlier. She wouldnt have missed the birthday party.
This is just a very special occasion, and shes a wonderful person in my life, Dreibelbis said. Shes been a fabulous role model.
Great-granddaughter Kelly Arthur, a California native, also traveled far. A Colorado State University junior studying animal science, she applauded a mind still sharp after decades.
She has so much wisdom, Arthur said. Shes one of the most insightful people I know.
Another family member had extra cause to celebrate Saturday. Caitlyn Dreibelbis, of Philipsburg, shares a birthday with her great-grandmother.
She turned 18 a milestone made even more memorable by the smiling woman holding the cake with her and posing for photos.
She knows everything, Caitlyn Dreibelbis said. She knows every grand-kids birthday. She doesnt forget anything. Shes amazing.
Indeed, during the first half, Ruth Dreibelbis recalled stories from her life as clearly as if they had happened last week.
Born Sept. 1, 1906, in Spring Township, she lived in Westmoreland County from 1910 to 1915.
Then we came back to Centre County, and Ive been here ever since, she said.
She remembers hearing neighbors discuss the news of the RMS Titanic sinking and taking her first car ride in 1914 in a Pierce-Arrow to a train station.
When World War I ended, she participated in the celebration. Up on a tripod went an effigy.
We took a pair of old overalls and a shirt, stuffed them with straw and burned the Kaiser, she said.
As a young girl in Ferguson Township, she attended a one-room schoolhouse. She met her future husband, Bruce, one day when he was plowing one side of Circleville Road, then a dirt lane, and she and her mother were gardening on the other.
They wed and raised five children on the dairy farm thats now Tudek Park.
I kept him, Dreibelbis said.
While he farmed, she worked as a commercial telephone operator in downtown State College, then at Penn States switchboard for 22 years. One frequent caller was President Dwight D. Eisenhower trying to reach his brother Milton, the university president.
Eisenhower would identify himself as Ike, ask how she was and then request, Would you ring my brother?
He was so nice, Dreibelbis said. No one called for him. He made his own calls.
She retired in 1972 but only because she had reached the mandatory age.
A year later, her husband died. She continued to live in a stone house that remains near Radio Park Elementary School, staying there until about 12 years ago. She stopped driving at 100.
Every day with her is a gift, her daughter, June Rudy, said.
Rudy, of Mansfield, sat next to her mother Saturday, chatting about the game and another family gathering.
I cant believe were up here again, Rudy said at one point, leaning over to the birthday girl. Could it really have been a year?
Later, in the hallway outside the suite, a family friend wished them another 12 months.
Well see you back here next year. Well celebrate 107.
Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620. Follow him on Twitter@CRosenblumNews.