Former State Line man celebrates 100th birthday

Andrea Rose news@echo-pilot.com
Avery Wingert recently celebrated his 100th birthday. ANDREA ROSE/ECHO PILOT

CHAMBERSBURG — Avery Wingert has been blessed in his life.

He learned the value of hard work, served his country, raised a family, was active in his church, played a little golf and traveled extensively with his wife of 70 years, Grace.

"We did get around," Wingert said with a grin. "Of course in 100 years, you have to fill it with something."

Wingert, a resident of Menno Haven, celebrated his 100th birthday over the weekend.

 From farm to bay 

Wingert grew up on a farm in Duffield, one of 10 children — seven boys and three girls.

The family grew several crops a year, including corn, wheat and hay and had about 30 milk cows.

He attended the old Duffield school. "There were two rooms in the original brick school," he recalled.

That was before the "new" building was built (which closed in 2009 and now houses the Hip Gypsy Emporium).

"I went to grades 5-8 in the new building," Wingert recalled.

After school came business college, first in Chambersburg, then in York. "I was interested in figures and bookkeeping," he said.

He worked for a few years at York Corp. before his country came a-calling.

"Uncle Sam called," Wingert said. "I spent about 18 months in Alternative Service, mostly on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where we opened up a river that had overgrown."

After that, Wingert returned to Franklin County where he worked at Waynesboro Auto Parts. "That's where I started my career in 1951," he recalled.

He went on to own Hagerstown Automotive, as well as auto parts stores in Hancock, Williamsport and Boonsboro, Maryland.

Growing a family 

Meanwhile on the home front, Wingert married Grace Peckman in April 1946, and the couple first set up housekeeping in Zullinger, before settling in State Line and raising five children — two boys and three girls.

Together, they were active at Hollowell Brethren in Christ Church, serving together as youth directors, as well as coaching Bible quiz teams and visiting mission fields in Peru, Haiti and Africa.

They enjoyed traveling for pleasure, too, he said, and his hobby was playing golf.

"I played all over the area," he recalled. "Caledonia, Penn National ...."

At home, gardening was a big pastime.

We did a lot of gardening," he said. "She loved flowers."

He lost Grace in 2016 after 70 years of marriage. "I miss her," he said.

 A century of change 

Wingert has seen plenty of changes over his decades of life, some good, some not-so-good, both locally and nationally.

"One of the things that's changed is the transportation system," he said. "We used to travel by train."

Wingert recalled taking the trolley from Waynesboro to Blue Ridge Summit, Hagerstown and Chambersburg.

Going farther is different as well.

"Air travel is probably the biggest change, and the method of farming has changed an awful lot," he said.

Of course, society has changed, too.

"The religious atmosphere in the community, the general view of morality has changed," he said.

Maybe it's because of other changes in technology, he speculated.

Back then, there wasn't a 24-hour news cycle or the internet to provide updates and entertainment. "We didn't have a TV. That's when radio was beginning," he said. "When we were kids, we didn't know anything about politics."

Despite the changes around him, Wingert said looking back, there's really not much he would have changed about his life.

"Maybe I wish I spent more time with my family rather than work," he said.

In retrospect, Wingert said has no idea why he has lived to triple digits. "I don't know," he admitted. "I've been thinking about that a lot. I think it's just taking it one day at a time."

"Life's been good," Wingert said. "I can't complain about that."