Helen Mathias celebrates her 100th birthday.

Helen Mathias celebrates her 100th birthday.

Masonic Village resident Helen Mathias turns 100 years old this year! Born September 27, 1917 in Virginia, Helen and her family moved to Campbelltown, PA when she was three so that her family could farm. Although her parents had her leave school in the eighth grade, Helen continued to study and read, something she has never stopped doing. She enjoys mystery books, especially those written by John Grisham, and has an “incredible memory” and “impeccable grammar,” according to her daughter, Nancy, who also lives at Masonic Village.

When Helen joined a church relief effort sending supplies to Germany in 1946, she never knew how the impact she made would be reciprocated – or that Elsa Rebeling, the woman to receive her box, would become one of her greatest friends. Elsa had seen her hometown razed to the ground by an air raid bombing, lost her fiancé in the war, and moved frequently, guiding her kindergarten students through air raids. Helen’s simple gesture of generosity began a friendship that would last for 60 years.

“Whenever we would go out to eat, she would take the paper placemat and write a letter to Elsa on the back,” Nancy remembers.

Their written correspondence and exchange of gifts led to cross-continent travels for both. Helen was fortunate enough to visit Germany four times, and host Elsa once here in the US. During one of her visits to Germany, in 1968, Helen was honored by the mayor of Dornberg, and was able to meet eight of the children enrolled in Elsa’s kindergarten class in 1946.

“They really felt that Helen had saved their lives,” Nancy said.

Helen and Elsa continued to communicate until 2005, when Elsa died. She was 91 years old. “I lost my home and my fiancé, but not all was lost because God gave me you, my dear friend,” Elsa once wrote to Helen.

In 1937, Helen married Harry Lehman. They had two children and many wonderful years together before Harry’s sudden death in 1962. Ten years later, Helen married Eston Mathias, whose company she enjoyed until he died in 1996.

Today, Helen enjoys shopping trips to Park City, and going out to eat at Applebee’s’, Red Lobster, or TJ Rockwell’s. She likes to watch horse racing and ice skating on TV, along with Columbo, Little Big Shots, and Fox News.

“God has blessed her with an excellent mind, excellent health, good friends, and a wonderful place to live…Masonic Village,” Nancy said.

About the author: Megan Hess, a senior from Messiah College, is a public relations intern at Masonic Villages.