Drive-by commemorates Palmerton woman’s 100th birthday
Between the snow falling and the fire engines blaring, it was a day Helen Varanko won’t soon forget.
Then again, there isn’t much Varanko hasn’t experienced in her life, which just reached a whole new zenith.
Varanko, who was born in Palmerton and has lived there for the last 30 years, turned 100 years old on Monday.
To commemorate the milestone, a drive-by of her home of friends, church members and well-wishers was held.
Among those on hand were her son Steve Varanko and his wife, Laura; and her granddaughter Melissa and her husband, Tim, along with their daughter, 7½-month-old infant Ella.
“She plans to celebrate with her family, have some cake, have some lunch,” Steve said. “It’s absolutely incredible because she’s had a number of close calls over the years.”
Steve said his mother’s character has shined bright her entire life.
“She’s been an amazing mom,” he said. “She’s lost nearly all of the friends from her age group, and has made other friends who are younger than her.”
Steve said he couldn’t think of a better setting for his mother to reside.
“It’s been a perfect place for her to live,” he said. “There’s so many nice people in Palmerton who are all willing to help.”
Varanko said she enjoyed all the presents, cake and cards that were bestowed upon her.
“It’s unbelievable; my family’s here,” Varanko said. “I’m enjoying it; I thought that was wonderful what the people from the (St. John’s Lutheran) church (in Palmerton) did.”
Her grandson Stephen, his daughter Cecilia and his son Stephen IV visited from Virginia Beach on Saturday.
Varanko lived in the borough until she was 17. She’s also lived in Connecticut, New Jersey and Northumberland County before she moved back to Palmerton in 1992.
Her husband, Stephen, passed in 1997 at the age of 80.
Varanko has another son, Frank, and a daughter, Nancy; eight grandchildren; 11-great-grandchildren; and seven great-great-grandchildren. She also has a sister, Ann Eckhart, of Palmerton.
While she misses activities like cooking, baking and reading, Varanko said she has plenty to be grateful for.
“I’m thankful I’m here every day,” she said.
So, what does she attribute her longevity to?
“Hard work,” she said. “And lots of friends.”
And undoubtedly a little bit of help from God.
“It’s truly one person; the guy upstairs,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him.”
Though she may have appeared a little nervous on her big day, Varanko said she was just fine.
“But what do you want for 100,” she quipped. “It’s hard to jump.”