Mahwah Resident Celebrates 100th Birthday
Marion Hadala has lived on Miller Rd. since 1947, and she's still going strong
On January 2, Miller Road resident Marion Hadala blew out 100 candles on her birthday cake. Actually, she did it a couple of times, thanks to all of the birthday parties she’s had thrown by family members, friends and neighbors this week. She’s also gotten “over a hundred” birthday cards in the mail.
“Everyone’s been so nice,” she said. “I didn’t realize there were so many people who liked me.”
Hadala, who was born in nearby Sloatsburg, NY in 1912, lives with her daughter, Jackie, in a house her husband and father built in the mid-1950’s. The duo celebrated Marion’s milestone birthday together with friends in neighboring towns, and with “a lot of cake,” Marion said.
Hadala remembers nearly every bit of the past 100 years, and has photos, paintings and mementoes throughout her house to remind her about the past – everything from a China doll her parents bought her when she was nine years old to a painting on the wall of her home in Sloatsburg.
Hadala said she was born in what was, at the time, the biggest house in Rockland County. Her father was a carpenter by trade who maintained a barn and garden at the house.
The house, she said, is still there. “The new owners have made some changes. We didn’t have running water in those days, so we had a big well outside that’s not there anymore. But, for the most part it still looks the same,” she said.
Hadala got her driver’s license when she was 17 years old, a novelty for women at that time, and worked as a telephone and switchboard operator for the New York Telephone Company for about 20 years.
During World War II, Marion worked as an operator at Iona Island near Bear Mountain, which was being used by the US Navy as a base. “I remember being stationed right next to the ammunition room,” she said.
Marion was married to Louis Hadala in 1940. Louis worked in Yonkers at a company that made elevator parts.
The couple moved from Sloatsburg to Miller Rd. in Mahwah in 1947. “It was very different then,” she said of the township in the days before the Ford plant had even moved in. “I think that was my favorite time here, when we first moved in. There were all apple orchards across the street and it was just lovely.”
She does admit there are a lot more “conveniences” in Mahwah now. “There was no garbage collection then, you had to hire somebody to take it. And there was one gas station downtown.”
A fire destroyed their home in the mid-1950’s. “We weren’t home, and the fire company never really figured out what it was. They said possibly the refrigerator or TV set, but didn’t know for sure,” Marion said. “But we lost everything. I remember people standing out in the flowerbed, watching it burn to the ground. It was terrible.”
According to Jackie, it took her father and grandfather six weeks to rebuild the home into the one she and her mother share today. The family stayed with neighbors and used clothes and furniture from family members and friends.
A few years later, the women said, their house was burglarized while the family was on vacation in Florida. “It was a complete mess, and they got away with a lot of stuff,” Jackie said. Marion said the authorities never found the burglers.
“We’ve definitely had it all,” the 100-year-old said. “But it’s been good here. We were surrounded by great neighbors who became friends.”
The Hadala family also loved to travel. During one trip to Kentucky over 40 years ago, Marion picked up a hobby that has stayed with her to this day. “I make eggs.”
Her home is filled with chicken, goose, ostrich, emu and other types of eggs that have been beautifully and tediously decorated. Now, all of her Christmas eggs are out – one that opens to reveal a nativity scene, another carved out to reveal a snuggling Mr. And Mrs. Claus. But, she’s got eggs that have been decorated for every occasion. Marion’s daughter estimates she’s made “hundreds” of them over the years.
“I love doing it,” Marion said. “I don’t do quite as much as I used to, but I still make them. There aren’t too many people I know who haven’t gotten an egg from me for some sort of occasion.”
Louis had a heart attack in the flower bed outside the Hadala’s home in 1989 and passed away. The couple had been married for 49 years. She says the secret to their long and happy marriage was communication. “I think you need to sit down and talk it out, not have one of you pack up and leave. We always talked.”
After Louis’s passing, Jackie moved back in with her mother. After going to school in Mahwah, she had moved out of the house and was living and working in Wyckoff before coming back to the township.
“My doctor always tells me that if it wasn’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t have made it without my husband, so I guess she’s the one that’s been keeping me alive,” Marion said. “It really is just me and her. We have each other.”
Marion says she’s also in “pretty good health.” She had a heart attack seven years ago, and broke her hip five years ago, so she walks with a cane or walker. Her hearing’s not the best, “but I keep going,” she said.
The community has noticed. In honor of her hundredth birthday, neighbors decorated her house, the village of Sloatsburg sent her a book about 1912 as recognition, and Mahwah’s mayor presented her with gifts and flowers as a recognition from the township. “She really is a wonderful lady, and we are lucky to have her as a part of this community,” Mayor Bill Laforet said.
As for Marion, she appreciates all of the attention, but said it feels about the same. “It doesn’t really feel like 100 years,” she said. “I don’t know why, but it doesn’t.”
Marion doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Her plans for the future include staying with her daughter, crafting more beautifully decorated eggs, and “just keeping going as long as I can. That’s what I’m going to do.”