Century Club: Ann Wagstaff's life marked by many memorable experiences
August 27, 2013 4:00 AM
Ann Wagstaff, who turned 100 Sunday, has had so many adventures that we can't fit them all. Here are some of the highlights:
She was born on Aug. 25, 1913, in Cincinnati, the only child of Alice and Stanley Henshaw. When she turned 16, her father took her to the local magistrate and said she should be allowed to drive. Permission was granted and she was given a Ford Model A touring car, which she used to drive her teacher and other students to school each day.
At 21, she inherited $1,000 from a cousin who had promised this money on the condition that she never smoke. She invested $500 of it in Procter & Gamble stock that she still has today. She used the other $500 to buy tickets for herself and her friend, Peggy Pogue, on the SS Normandie's maiden voyage back to Europe. Unable to rent a car, she bought an Austin 7, nicknamed the "Baby Austin," and drove all over England for 31/2 months. When she returned, she enrolled at the University of Cincinnati.
In 1936, she met her future husband when an aunt in England asked if her husband's nephew might spend Christmas with her family in Cincinnati. She didn't particularly like James Wagstaff, but he began to write her letters and came to spend Christmas with them again the following year. When her family sailed from Quebec to England in 1938, Mr. Wagstaff joined them. Finally, after he had begun to "grow" on her, he showed up in Cincinnati with an engagement ring and tickets for "Mr. and Mrs. Wagstaff" aboard the RMS Mauretania II. They were married June 24, 1939.
They were living in Sheffield, England, when World War II started. She learned to drive an ambulance but had to quit when she became pregnant. She returned to Cincinnati and gave birth to their daughter, Alice Terne (deceased). Their other two children are Edward Wagstaff of Forest, Va., and Sarah Douglas of Canonsburg.
Four years after Alice was born, she and Mrs. Wagstaff went back to England aboard the first convoy that permitted civilians. In Manchester, Alice finally got to meet her father. Later that year, the family immigrated to the United States aboard the Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr. Wagstaff was hired by U.S. Steel in Ridgewood, N.J., and transferred to Monroeville in 1957. While living in Murrysville, Mrs. Wagstaff and several others established an adult school program that was a precursor to the community college enrichment programs that still exist today. She designed their two houses. One was missing a staircase to the second floor and one was missing a chimney. Both were added during construction.
The Wagstaffs traveled to England, Egypt, Israel and South Africa, where they explored the Serengeti. Mr. Wagstaff died in 1986 after 47 years of marriage. She moved to Friendship Village in Upper St. Clair and has traveled to Branson, Mo., cruised the Caribbean four times and ridden on the Mississippi Queen. She plays bridge five times a week, and has seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. They were among 60 people who came from as far away as England, Minnesota, Connecticut, Virginia and North Carolina for her birthday dinner last weekend.