By DAVE DELUCA - For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
At a birthday party held by her family in her honor at the North Perry Village Hall, Margaret Kline lifted her glass and gave the first toast. “Na zdravie,” she said with a smile, and the happy celebrants responded in kind. Those words mean ‘to your health’ in Slovak, and they had special meaning for Kline. She was celebrating her 100th birthday.
A few days later on June 24, she was the toast of another birthday celebration in her honor at the Lantern of Madison assisted living facility. She was a bit under the weather from an upset stomach, but still quite willing to enjoy herself again. Kline was feted there by her son Jon and his wife Jeanne and around 20 residents of the Lantern of Madison.
According to family legend, Margaret (Zimny) Kline was born on a hot summer day on June 24, 1913. Her mother was bringing in hay in the family farm’s fields on Hardy Road in Painesville Township when she felt the contractions begin. Mother walked back to the house and told her oldest daughter Mary to run and fetch the midwife. It was time. Margaret was making her way into the world.
Mamma Mary and papa John Zimny were immigrants from the country now called Slovakia, formerly part of Czechslovakia and before that part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. They emigrated here at the beginning of the 20th century like many eastern European families seeking refuge and a better life in the United States. The Zimny family settled first in Painesville Township near the Township Park, then moved to Prospect Street in Fairport Harbor right near Lake Erie. They remained there many years.
It was a large family, with 10 children. Margaret was the sixth child born to John and Mary Zimny. The 10 children were sisters Mary Whitmore, Ann Gleason, Julianne Shetina, Sophie Doyle, Helen Greifenstein, Rosalene Horvath, Alice Van Jura and Margaret Kline, and brothers John and Robert Zimny. All except Margaret have since passed away.
It was common for midwives to deliver children in those days. Except for very wealthy families, doctors and hospitals rarely delivered babies. When Margaret was old enough to attend school it was a one-room elementary and then on to high school. Her family was lucky to have a new start in the new world. Unless they were wealthy, young women in Slovakia rarely attended secondary school. Margaret graduated from Fairport Harding High School in 1931. As she remembered, she was either class president or vice president one year.
“I think I got the job because no one else wanted it,” she joked at the Lantern of Madison party.
As a teen and in her early twenties, for fun she went to see Swing bands like the Harry James orchestra and Artie Shaw’s band in Mentor-on-the-Lake and especially Geneva-on-the-Lake.
“That was the thing to do back then,” she said.
Margaret is still fairly spry for her age and although she has hearing problems and poor eyesight, she can lock in on conversations and join right in. The Slovak toast ‘na zdravie’ seems to apply to her well. She is still tough and as independent as her age permits. Her son Jon (Jack) Kline (65), a retired area optometrist, said, “Mom was picking fruit last summer at age 99. In her 70s she picked fruit regularly and fell off a ladder once and broke her hand. She drove herself to the hospital in a stick-shift car.”
Jon Kline said, “She was always doing stuff, but she was a family person first. She liked being with the grandkids.”
Kline said she enjoyed fishing and always had to catch the first Walleye of the season. She got her fishing skills from her mother Mary, who was known as ‘the fishing lady’ of Fairport.
After graduating from Fairport Harding, Margaret Kline had numerous jobs, including a stint as a housekeeper in an Adirondack mountain lodge. After getting married she worked as a bookkeeper for the E. W. Cruikshank Insurance Agency in Painesville for more than 50 years.
Arthur (Bud) Kline married Margaret Zimny on Thanksgiving Day of 1941. It was a short honeymoon for the newlywed Klines, because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor a few weeks later. Arthur was soon off to war, where he served in the south Pacific as a combat engineer for three years. When Arthur Kline was reassigned to Los Alamos New Mexico she moved there and worked for a local insurance agency. When the war ended Arthur Kline worked on the docks in Fairport, also for the B&O Railroad as a fireman, as a tool and die maker in Geneva, and as a production order writer at Fasson in Painesville. They moved into a house Arthur Kline built on River Road in Perry. Arthur Kline died in 1995 after 54 years of marriage. Margaret has four grandchildren and five great grandchildren now
Margaret is a world traveler, having visited Europe in the 1990s. She lived at home by herself until 2002, when she moved in with her son Jon and his wife Jeanne. She moved into Lantern of Madison in March of 2013.