Greencastle woman, 100, reflects on a life full of family, faith, music, pies and poetry

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Her full name is Lenora Viola (Souders) Kriner Lininger, but everyone calls her Babe.

She was the baby of 18, and her mother was 45 when she was born 100 years ago on Dec. 17, 1921, at Jugtown, near Cito, in Fulton County. Still independent, she now lives in the Mobile Home Village Park on North Carlisle Street in Greencastle.

'Babe' (Souders) Kriner Lininger displays her Lemasters High School Class of 1940 banner.

Babe was the guest of honor at a party on Dec. 18 in Greencastle Church of the Brethren, celebrating 100 years with about 100 family members and friends.

Family and friends honored Lenora Viola 'Babe' (Souders) Kriner Lininger at a 100th birthday celebration at Greencastle Church of the Brethren.

Babe's background

The daughter of the late George B. and Margaret Souders, she was very young when the family moved across the mountain into Franklin County. She's lived in Cove Gap, St. Thomas, Fort Loudon and Markes.

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"I have a lot of friends, especially in Fort Loudon. It's like going home," Babe said.

She graduated from eighth grade in Fort Loudon, then went on to Lemasters High School, where she acted in plays and was a cheerleader. She still has the dress she wore to graduation in 1940. She also has a graduation day photo with her future husband, Guy H. Kriner. They were married from 1940 until 1983, when he died of congestive heart failure.

Lenora Viola 'Babe' Souders is pictured with her future husband, Guy H. Kriner, on the day she graduated from Lemasters High School in 1940.

They had one daughter, Gloria Stahl. She and her husband, John, adopted their son Matthew, now 51, in 1970. He was born Nov. 17 and they brought him home a month later — on her mother's birthday.

"So we celebrate double," Stahl said.

Babe has a stepdaughter, Darlene Cook, from her second marriage to Wayne Lininger, her husband's cousin, who was a widower. She moved to his home in Chambersburg following their marriage in 1989, and she continued to live there following his death in 2003.

"I wanted her closer to me, and her eyes got so bad she couldn't drive," Stahl said of her mother's move to Greencastle.

Pants and a protest

Like many women of her generation, Babe worked at the clothing manufacturer J. Schoeneman Co. in Chambersburg.

She stitched pants pockets and proudly noted President Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower had four pairs in pastel colors that he wore to golf in.

She's also proud of a newspaper clipping with the headline "Area textile workers join import protest," accompanied by a picture of her holding a sign saying "IMPORTS KILLED 200,000 JOBS."

'Babe' Kriner was the 'area protester with her sign' pictured in the newspaper as hundreds of local garment workers joined those across the nation protesting President Jimmy Carter's refusal to curb the import of cheap clothing.

Hundreds of local garment workers were part of the nationwide protest of President Jimmy Carter's refusal to curb imports.

After 38 years at her job, "I wore my finger out," Babe said, demonstrating how her left index finger doesn't work and explaining doctors at Hershey Medical Center were unable to fix it.

'Boring, boring, boring'

"My cane's here somewhere," she said in the tidy living room of her mobile home just days before her milestone birthday, while her daughter added, "She doesn't use it."

Babe is completely blind in one eye and has macular degeneration in the other. She needs large-print books and a magnifying glass for reading, one of her favorite activities. She's read five versions of the Bible.

"I believe in the Lord. I wouldn't be here if not for Him," Babe said. "I love my scriptures."

Lenora Viola 'Babe' (Souders) Kriner Lininger is shown in the living room of her home in Greencastle.

Her favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31, "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

"Her hearing is good, her mind is good, and she gets around good — you can see that," said Stahl, who does her mother's vacuuming and, because of her vision, her paperwork. Babe takes care of the rest, including the bathroom.

"I have to give it a good scrubbing," Babe explained.

"Boring, boring boring," is what her doctor says when he looks at her blood-work, and she credits eating Cheerios with bringing her cholesterol down.

"Everyone talks about her complexion," Stahl said, which Babe attributes to her use of Noxzema.

"You have to keep up a good attitude," Babe said, but added, "Of late I'm getting a little 'irrrr,'" explaining that means irritable.

Pies, music and poetry

There was no hint of "irrrr," but lots of humor as she talked about things she likes to do — such as reciting the alphabet backward and giving the names of presidents in order.

"She's known for her pies," Stahl said, and Babe broke into Dinah Shore's 1946 hit song "Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy."

All her brothers and sisters were musical, and music has always been a part of her life, singing and playing guitar.

'Babe' (Souders) Kriner Lininger holds the dress she wore at her graduation from Lemasters High School in 1940. A photo of her and her future husband, Guy H. Kriner, is clipped to the top.

She taught Sunday School and sang in the choir at churches she's attended over the years. She now goes to Greencastle Church of the Brethren, and while she doesn't sing in the choir, she sings in the congregation.

Babe also likes to write poetry about herself.

"My Hundred Year Old Birthday Poem" covers knee replacement, gall bladder removal, pain in her neck, acid reflux and the hardest blow, the loss of her sight.

The flowing, page-long verse is all in rhyme, including "spinal stenosis" and "diverticulosis."

Health challenges aside, the poem concludes:

"But I thank God every day for giving me breath,

"And I'll trust in Him until my eyes close in death.

"For what all I've been through and the places I've been

"I'm a pretty good old girl for the shape that I'm in!"

Despite being in pretty good shape for an old girl, Babe is prepared for the inevitable.

"I don't know when I am going, but I'm ready," she said. "I know I'll be in heaven with loved ones, ones who believe in the Lord. It will be a beautiful place."

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com