Centre County centenarian still going strong

Josephine Yearick reads a certificate from the Centre County commissioners during a celebration for her 100th birthday at Brookline on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.
Josephine Yearick reads a certificate from the Centre County commissioners during a celebration for her 100th birthday at Brookline on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. CDT photo

In typical fashion, Josephine Yearick received cards from friends on her recent birthday.

Congratulations also came from Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sent their best.

And regards from the Queen of England may be en route.

But that’s what can happen when one turns 100.

On Wednesday at the Inn at Brookline, the personal care facility where Yearick lives, the Centre County commissioners also got into the act.

Commissioner Michael Pipe delivered a fancy certificate to Yearick at a party thrown in honor of her and five other residents with May birthdays.

Pipe said the commissioners had never bestowed such a tribute before, but when Brookline contacted them, they were happy to honor Centre County’s first centenarian of 2014.

“She’s done some incredible things,” Pipe said. “I’m humbled by her.”

Activities coordinator Jeni Mellinger said Toomey’s office and the White House sent certificates when notified. She also contacted Buckingham Palace, which sends 100th birthday messages, and is hoping for a reply soon.

“She’s an amazing person,” Mellinger said of Yearick, a former Army nurse.

The most senior birthday guest seemed somewhat bemused with the gala featuring cake, orange punch and old-time songs played by local musician Jim Kerhin on the banjo.

“I have not made any fuss about it,” Yearick said of her birthday. “To me, it’s just another day. But this has been nice.”

Born May 10, 1914, three months before World War I began, Yearick grew up in Howard Township as the oldest of eight siblings.

She graduated from Howard High School a year early at 17 and entered nursing school in Lock Haven. On her first call, she delivered a baby.

Eventually, she administered X-rays, earning $30 a month.

In 1942, she went to war, following her brothers and a few friends into the Army. A second lieutenant starting out, she became a general nurse in the Army Air Force, posted, among other wartime assignments, to the biological warfare program at Fort Detrick, Md.

The program was so hush-hush, she needed an FBI security clearance.

During the Korean War, after a promotion to nurse coordinator, she worked as a surgical nurse treating wounded soldiers at an Army hospital in Sakai, Japan.

“In other words, we got 125 patients most nights flown from Korea,” she said.

When the Berlin crisis of 1961 flared, the Army called her back to active duty, stationing her at an El Paso, Texas, base until the Cold War tensions cooled.

“I enjoyed all my assignments,” she said.

She went to the Army Reserves in 1967. Five years later, then-Maj. Yearick and her late husband, John, also in the Army, retired together.

“I told my husband when he retired, I would quit,” she said.

The couple, both on their second marriage, subsequently enjoyed many winters in Florida in their mobile home. Yearick also taught nursing for eight years at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in Pleasant Gap.

These days, she regularly volunteers with the Brookline activities department, passing out weekly menus and other information to residents. Plus, she plays a mean Skip-Bo, the card game.

“Nothing keeps her down,” Mellinger said. “She’s going to go with me tomorrow to the Country Cupboard (restaurant and shop near Lewisburg) for the whole day.”

The party fazed Yearick a bit. “I’m a little embarrassed by all the fuss that’s being made,” she said.

But she sounded happy when another birthday celebrant, Hilda Rhule, leaned over and wished her well.

“You’re special all the time,” said Rhule, a relatively young 86.

Yearick smiled as her 100th birthday celebration continued.

“I hope it happens for you,” she said.