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home : latest news : local May 24, 2016

3/18/2013 6:00:00 AM
Lucky to reach 1, Annie is now 100
Gerling beat black diptheria 99 years ago
Annie Gerling
Annie Gerling

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Annie Gerling has spent her life singing and dancing, loving family, friends and strangers and devoting herself to the Lord.

She's done all of that for 100 years.

Born at her Aunt Annie's house on March 18, 1913, and raised on a houseboat on the Gasconade River on the edge of St. Louis, Annie came close to dying before her first birthday.

She contracted black diphtheria, a serious upper respiratory disease, when she was eight months old.

Annie's mother rowed a boat across the river to get her to the hospital.

"The doctor looked at her and said if she's still alive tomorrow, bring her back and I'll give her some more medicine," said Sharon Selders, Annie's adopted daughter.

"He thought I was dead when my mother brought me in," said Annie.

She survived, but the disease stunted her growth, she said, and she didn't walk until she was 2 years old.

Annie stopped growing three inches shy of five feet, but she is a giant to those who love her, said Sharon.

The only one of eight children still alive, Annie quit school after eighth grade to help support her family.

Every dime she earned, with the exception of her streetcar fare, went to the family.

She went to work as a housekeeper and nanny and at 16 she began working as a waitress.

"I had to bring my birth certificate," she said. "I was so short they didn't think I was as old as I said I was."

She would be a waitress for the rest of her life.

The year was 1929. Annie was living in the Roaring '20s and dating "the best Charleston dancer in St. Louis."

That October the stock market crashed and a global depression sent the world into an economic tailspin.

The family struggled, as most did in the 1930s, and then Annie met George Anshutz, a journeyman electrician who would soon become a minister.

They married in 1935 and spent the next six decades together.

George was "called to the ministry" and the family had to move to Anderson, Ind., where he would attend a theology college. Annie was reluctant to move, so she got a not-so-subtle hint from above, she said.

"I didn't want to leave my home in East St. Louis," she said, "so God sent a flood."

In 1943, while World War II raged and George was in the seminary, the couple adopted Sharon when she was 15 days old.

Annie couldn't have children and Sharon, she said, was a gift from God.

After George finished school, the family moved from Alabama to South Carolina before relocating to the Southern California cities of Compton and then Blythe, where they would live until 1958, when George took a pastor's job in Pocatello, Idaho.

In 1972 at age 59, George suffered a massive heart attack and the following year they moved to Meadview.

The Community Church he started there in 1973 is still going strong.

George died in 1995. The last words he said to his wife before the ambulance took him away still haunt Annie.

"He said, 'Give me a kiss because I'll never be home again.'"

At 83, she married Charles "Chuck" Gerling, who died in 2003.

She would live alone at her home in Meadview in total independence.

She sang in the church choir - something she did for most of her life - belonged to the Red Hat Ladies and sang and danced and loved her family, friends and strangers.

Her life alone came to an end on Aug. 6, 2009.

On her way to a hair appointment, Annie fainted somewhere between her front door and her car. She would lie on the ground in the hot summer sun for more than three hours.

She was flown to a Las Vegas hospital. "She was unresponsive," said Sharon. Annie had suffered a stroke that completely paralyzed the right side of her body from head to toe.

Annie went to live at The Gardens at Kingman assisted living center.

She's suffered five more strokes since then, and has come back every time. The paralysis has always been temporary.

"I prayed," she explained. "Prayer always brings me back from everything."

"She has the faith of Job," said Sharon.

And she has the heart of a born entertainer.

When musicians come to play for residents, Annie is asked to sing a song or two. She loves to sing Gospel.

She also loves baseball, but she's conflicted over which team to root for. A lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, Annie said she sometimes finds herself rooting for the Diamondbacks.

"I get confused over who I should root for sometimes," she said with a chuckle.

However, she never gets confused over whom she likes and whom she doesn't care for.

"I love everybody," she said. "I've never met a stranger. I like them all."

Well, she almost likes them all.

"I wasn't keen on (President Herbert) Hoover," she said. "And (President Harry) Truman was mouthy. I could understand why. He was from the same part of Missouri as I was from."

She was fond of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Ronald Reagan might be her favorite of the 17 men who have lived in the White House during her lifetime.

She believes the electric refrigerator is the most important invention of the last 100 years, but she's content to focus on the human condition rather than things humans covet.

"There hasn't been a day in her life that she was in a bad mood," said Sharon. "She's never sad, never lonely. She thinks every day is a gift."

"Every day is a gift," Annie said. "My whole life has been for God. I'll be here until the Lord says it's time. Faith, friends and family, that's all you need. That's all any of us need."

The staff and residents of The Gardens will throw a party for Annie today. She expects to sing and dance and love everybody - friends, family and strangers.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013
Article comment by: Dave Coop

Happy Birthday, Annie! Your story is inspiring. You beat all odds.

This was very well written, Doug. Thank you.

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013
Article comment by: Cathy Robertson

Happy Birthday Annie! We miss you dear lady. I`ll bet you are still a great dancer!

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013
Article comment by: Bonnie Richmond

While visiting a friend I had the honor of meeting Annie. She is an absolute joy to talk to and be around. She leaves you with a smile in your heart. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNIE

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013
Article comment by: Dale & Alan Rodberg

Happy Birthday to another beautiful 100 year old woman, living here in Kingman!
We hope you have a blessed day!
(I can't put a heart here, so take this as a heart)

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013
Article comment by: Rick O'Shea

Good story, keep goin Mrs. Gerling!

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