IDAHO FALLS, Idaho- Sara “Sally” Ann (Dibert Suppes) Ashman has watched a man walk on the moon, traveled around Europe, witnessed the rise and fall of Johnstown Steel, read countless books – and lived through the Great Depression, two world wars and the times of 20’s US Presidents.
And on Wednesday she turned 110 years old.
“She’s lived through extraordinary times,” said their daughter, Sara “Sally” Cifrese.
The Johnstown native now lives in Idaho with Cifrese, 80, but she gets up on her own every morning, dresses and goes to breakfast.
Afterwards, Ashman uses an iPad to read the New York Times Digest, a tradition she’s kept up most of her life.
She used to solve the crossword every day, but now she has some problems because she doesn’t know many of the modern day celebrities.
However, she still solves the math puzzles.
In addition to the Times, she read the New Yorker every week, but the magnifying glass she has doesn’t make the words big enough.
“I have my brain”
Ashman has been a devoted reader all her life and has always loved solving mysteries.
The super centenarian said many of her senses have diminished with age – sight, hearing, taste – but she still has her wits about her.
“I have my brain, thank God,” Ashman said.
She was born on November 23, 1912 at the now-demolished 100 Valley Pike—formerly the Surf ‘N Turf Inn.
Ashman’s family lived there before their home next door at 116 Valley Pike was completed.
Her grandfather, George Plitt Suppes, owned most of the land in this area before it was tilled, and his son, George Osborne Suppes – Ashman’s father and first President of Johnstown Bank and Trust – provided a comfortable living for his family. Marion Dibert Suppes was her mother and Scott Dibert was her maternal grandfather.
She grew up with tennis courts at her house – a favorite game she played her whole life – and graduated top of her class from both Cochran Junior High and Johnstown High School.
In 1934 she graduated from Bryn Mawr College with honors.
Cifrese said that her mother had a passion for mathematics but was unable to continue those studies due to the politics of the time.
Instead, she studied art history with Bryn Mawr.
On the tennis courts behind her house, she met her future husband, Wilbur M. Ashman, who would become the administrator of Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital.
The two were married in 1936 and had three children, George “Jeff” S. Ashman, Cifrese, and Thomas W. Ashman, before moving to Westmont.
Ashman spent many years volunteering there while her husband ran the medical facility.
George Ashman said his mother was instrumental in helping his father travel and recruit interns from across the country to work at Conemaugh – many of whom returned to Johnstown to open practices.
Although Ashman is more than a century old, she remembers many things from her life.
She remembers learning to knit at the age of four, sewing spats to send to soldiers during World War I who covered city-wide power outages during World War II in the event of an Axis attack on the US, how busy Johnstown used to be – and the floods of 1936 and 1977.
“One of Three Sisters”
Ashman lived alone until she was 100 years old.
She and her husband spent the winter in Naples, Florida, but after her husband’s death and as she got older, the trip was a bit much.
So she stayed in Florida full time until 2012 when she moved in with Cifrese in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Turning 110 comes as a surprise to the super centenarian, but she takes it day by day, adding that every year of her life has been joyful.
“She never expected that, but she’s like an Eveready battery,” Cifrese said. “She just keeps going.”
George Ashman is also happy with the situation.
“It’s just incredible,” he said.
Although he also noted that his mother has good genetics.
“She is one of three sisters and each of the three sisters was in her 90s and her mother was in her 90s,” said George Ashman.
He still speaks regularly to his mother and credits her and father with instilling in him and his siblings a sense of hard work, compassion for others, and conscientiousness.
Cifrese said the family matriarch has always been an encouraging and supportive figure.
Her brother agreed.
“She was very caring,” he said. “Loved her children – loved her grandchildren.”
These days, Cifrese said, her mother spends most of her time in her comfortable chair, alternating between napping and reading during the day.