Elvira (Vera) Durbeck of Point Breeze had beautiful music, poetry and lots of company on her 100th birthday earlier this month. About 100 friends and staff members of the East Liberty Vintage Senior Center celebrated with Mrs. Durbeck, the center's oldest active member, and Walter Beasley, another Vintage regular who turned 91 on March 1.
The program planned by Mrs. Durbeck's friend, Laura Maria, began with poetry readings and "Happy Birthday" sung and played by two University of Pittsburgh students, a pianist and violinist recruited Ms. Maria. Then Ms. Maria performed a 20-minute version of her 92-minute sonata, one of 42 pieces she has composed. Afterward, the students played the "Black Hawk Waltz" and some songs by Duke Ellington for Mr. Beasley, a jazz lover.
Mrs. Durbeck was born on March 1, 1913, in a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that is now in Serbia. She immigrated to the United States in 1951 and can speak or understand seven languages, including German, Slovak, Hungarian, Serbian and English. She has one son, Herbert of Maryland, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She received a congratulatory birthday letter from President Barack Obama.
Teacher turns 100
It's been three months since Angeline Henry's 100th birthday, but it's never too late to celebrate such an interesting life.
She was born in Bugnara, Italy, on Dec. 24, 1912, and immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island in 1920 when she was 8 years old. She and her family settled in New Castle, and she graduated summa cum laude from New Castle High School in 1931.
At Temple University, she earned a distinction in French, and her first job was teaching in Plain Grove, Pa., in 1941. She earned $1,000 annually with the promise of $50 raises each year. Her duties included coaching the softball team and giving community plays in the spring and fall. She also established a library for students.
From 1945-47, she taught Latin and Spanish at Union High School in Union Township. In 1947, she married Paul Henry and they had one daughter, Maria Henry of Robinson. When Mr. Henry was transferred to Philadelphia, she taught at Swarthmore High School in Delaware County.
In 1959, Mr. Henry was transferred back to Pittsburgh, and Mrs. Henry began teaching Latin and French at Castle Shannon Junior High School. When Castle Shannon merged with Dormont and Green Tree to form Keystone Oaks School District, she taught at the high school. One of her traditions was the Latin Banquet, in which students portrayed Roman gods at a dinner dance. Mrs. Henry was also the moderator for language labs and coordinator of the Allegheny County Latin Fair. She retired in 1975, and Mr. Henry died in 1987. She has one granddaughter.
If you or a friend or a relative recently turned 100 or will soon do so, the Post-Gazette would like to hear from you. To be included in Century Club, send the honoree's biographical information and your phone number to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Century Club, Attn: Kevin Kirkland, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. Fax: 412-491-8452. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.