STOW — How does someone live 100 years?
“Keep breathing,” is the answer provided by Esther Pearl Conklin Warffuel-Clark, who was born in 1919 in Newton Falls and celebrated her 100th birthday Aug. 10 at Briarwood Healthcare Community surrounded by family, friends and Mayor John Pribonic, who presented her with a proclamation.
“She has taught us all how to age gracefully,” said niece Edie English.
Esther grew up on the family farm in Newton Falls in the Duck Creek area with three sisters and two brothers who have all predeceased her. A picture of the house is in her room at Briarwood.
Esther graduated from Newton Falls High School and earned a degree in education from Kent State University. She was a teacher in Newton Falls, Braceville and Hudson, where she taught the fourth grade for many years, Edie said.
“She made quite an impact on her students,” she added.
Esther was married to Harold Warffuel, who worked at Firestone, and they lived in Cuyahoga Falls, Edie said. After his death, she married William “Bill” Clark, a retired Baptist pastor with five children, and they lived in Tallmadge. They both moved into Briarwood in 2010 and Bill died in 2012.
Esther was active in her church, Northminster Presbyterian Church in Cuyahoga Falls, where she was an elder and served in Christian education, Edie said. She taught and wrote curriculum with her younger sister.
“She was a pastor’s wife and did a lot of programs for women,” Edie said. “She was a wonderful hostess and entertained a lot. She loved crafts even to this day.”
Her niece, Kathy Vugrincic of Pittsburgh, and stepdaughter, Annette Cioci of Struthers, were seated with Esther at the head table.
Vugrincic said all the nephews and nieces became her children. Many followed her example and became teachers.
Esther would tell them about her travels when they were children and sat through hours of home movies, she said.
“She went to Africa and I had to go to Africa, too,” Vugrincic said. “We confided to her things we wouldn’t confide to our parents.”
Cioci said although the five stepchildren from her second marriage were adults, she was a friend to all of them and their children.
“She’s been such a blessing,” Cioco said. “We love her, and she’s been such a great addition to the family.”
Guests sang “Long Division” written by Esther and another teacher to teach their students math to the tune of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”
Gifts were donated as prizes for bingo, which Esther loves, and chocolate cupcakes and candy were served with Esther’s favorite color of blue seen in frosting, decorations and the color of nail polish on her toes.
Her nephew, Ken Conklin, played the piano and the “Old The Gray Mare” at Esther’s request.
A video highlighted her life. Food was sponsored by Briarwood, Crossroads Hospice and Sam’s Club.
“The staff at Briarwood is so good,” Edie said. “Many of the staff have been here a long time. I’m grateful they take care of her.”
Esther did not have children of her own but had 12 nephews and nieces which she loved as her children.
“She treated each the same and very special,” Ken said. “She is a really cool lady. She is very adventurous and extremely generous.”
Esther’s great niece and Edie’s daughter, Marcia Pratt of Pittsburgh, said Esther treats every occasion as a party. Marcia is a pre-school director in Pittsburgh.
“She always used the best dishes and always played games,” Pratt said. “I became a teacher because of her.”
Grace Blower of Hudson also grew up in Newton Falls. Although she is 20 years younger than Esther, she remembers spending time on the front porches of each home. Her younger brother, Earl Holmes, who died in 2009, had a crush on Esther and is holding her hand in several old photos.
Esther traveled to 57 countries with her two husbands.
“They would travel in the summers and go abroad one year and then take a domestic trip the following year,” Edie said.
“She collected things from all over the world, and it was like going to a museum,” Edie said of Esther’s homes in Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge. “My children liked going there.”
Esther’s antiques are at the suffragette Harriet Taylor Upton House in Warren, Edie said. Ken is on the board for the Upton House, and Edie grew up in Warren.
“It has meaning for our family to have her things there,” Edie said. “I took her there on her 95th birthday to see it.”
Ken said a lot of Esther’s things are on display and can be enjoyed by everyone during tours. A Haviland China service for 12 is on permanent display at Upton House.
Great-nephew Tom English said Esther and her first husband, Harold, gave him the love of traveling.
“We’ve had a lifelong competition about travel,” Tom said. “I’ve been to Australia and she hasn’t.”
Tom has all of Esther’s travel slides and home movies and is converting them to digital so family members can enjoy them. The movies offer a comparison of the time Esther traveled and when younger family members visited the same site.
“They were in Berlin when there was an East and West Berlin,” Tom said. “We went there after the wall came down.”
Nephew Ray Cocklin said Esther always had presents for their birthdays and Christmas and babysat them.
“We loved to go there and see the slides and movies of their travels,” Ray said. “We went to Israel a few years ago and remember everything we saw in her movies.”.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or email@example.com.