When Anne Beers’ mother, Annabelle Holblinger, moved in with her and her husband 20 years ago, Beers said she thought it was the start of the final years of her mother’s life. At the time, Holblinger was 93 years old.
Today, she is 113 years old. She is the oldest person in Colorado and the 9th in the country.
“We certainly didn’t think she would live with us this long, but that’s how the dice roll,” Beers said with a laugh.
On Wednesday, Beers, 83, her younger sister, Jean Peterman, and more than a dozen friends celebrated Holblinger’s 113th birthday. Twenty five colored balloons, strung with “Congratulations!”, “Happy Birthday!”, and even an accidentally purchased Beers that read, “It’s a girl!”, floated around the house.
Everyone drank coffee and ate a big carrot cake that the two sisters made according to their mother’s recipe. Holblinger, who lives with dementia and was having a less social day, didn’t say much, but gulped down the carrot cake, one of her favorite treats.
She loved to cook, her eldest daughter said, and not just carrot cake. Growing up, Holblinger made lemon chiffon pie, chocolate soufflé, and angel food cake with what Beers described as “the lightest touch.” She no longer bakes, but also loves babies and knitting blankets for her family.
Holblinger, obviously, has lived a lot of life. She was born on March 16, 1909, the sixth of seven children who lived on a farm in the small hamlet of Callicoon, New York. Former US President Theodore Roosevelt had just been replaced by William Howard Taft at the time.
When she was five years old and baseball legend Babe Ruth was in her first season, she received a doll for Christmas that she adored. It was a big deal at the time, because her family was poor and gifts like that didn’t come often. The wooden doll with curly brown hair, a pale face and a flapper scarf wrapped around her neck is still with Holblinger 108 years later. He is sitting on a small chair in his room.
When she was a teenager, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby the magnificent was published and prohibition grumbled, she left the farm for the big city: Manhattan, New York. The women in her family expected them to leave school without graduating and work in order to send money home.
She lived in the city, doing domestic work for a wealthy family, until she married her late husband, Anton Holblinger. They moved to the Bronx for a time, where they had Beers, their first daughter. When Holblinger was pregnant with their second daughter and tired of climbing four flights of stairs while carrying groceries, Beers said, they moved to Valley Stream on Long Island, New York.
It’s where she spent much of her life with her family – embroidering, growing flowers, fixing and selling electronics and appliances for work – until she moved in with Beers at 93. in Colorado. Holblinger’s husband had developed Alzheimer’s disease and eventually died. She no longer wanted to live alone in their family home in New York.
Over the years of living with her aging mother, Beers said she was taken in by her wisdom. As a child, she never thought her mother was smart since she hadn’t made it past eighth grade and her father despised Holblinger because of it, she said.
“For much of my life, I didn’t appreciate my mother’s wisdom. But the longer I live with her, the more I appreciate her wisdom in all areas,” Beers said.
However, taking care of her mother has been very difficult at times. Neither she nor her husband expected to take care of her for more than 20 years. There are times when the work gets so heavy, she says, that resentment flares up inside her. This, however, forced her to grow.
“I mean, it’s not at all what we thought our retirement was going to be like,” she said. “So it’s been harder than I ever thought it would be, which is good because then I have to learn how to take better care of myself given those constraints.”
Still, Beers learns from his mother.
Holblinger is on her third stint as a hospice patient. She survived the pandemic with a minimal reaction to the vaccine and continues to truck. Beers wonders what more she and her mother can get out of life.
“What lesson have I still not learned from my mother? And what is the life lesson she hasn’t learned yet? Because what else explains it? She obviously likes to live,” Beers said.