RIPLEY - Lucille Kofoed Sheedy and Lee Sharie hosted a 102nd birthday party for centenarian Edna Kofoed, a Ripley icon, at her home on Halloween afternoon, Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Immediate family members and a few close friends were present for the celebration. Notable chef Lucille Sheedy of Lockport toiled tirelessly in the kitchen staging and prepping the food for presentation to "Auntie Edna" and guests. Sheedy was assisted by hostesses Sharie, Kofoed's longtime caregiver, and her granddaughters, Kayla and Courtney Potthoff. The menu was a split of vegetarian, meat and fish options and desserts.
The decorated cake was baked by BJ's in Tonawanda, as Kofoed prefers their cakes. BJ's had baked one for Kofoed's 100th birthday celebration held at Meeder's Restaurant in Ripley back in October 2010.
Ripley resident Edna Kofoed celebrated her 102nd birthday on Wednesday, Oct. 31
The party was emceed by Lori Potthoff, who Kofoed loves very much because she always makes her laugh. Potthoff also provided the entertainment as stand-up comedian. Sharie and Kayla and Courtney Potthoff served the cake and coffee.
At the celebration, "Auntie Edna" recalled her days working for Senator and Mrs. Hamilton.
"He was a wonderful man who helped so many people in need, and he was a highly respected and effective senator in Albany," she said. "While at home in Ripley, he was a pussycat and everyone loved him.
"However, Mrs. Hamilton wore the pants in the family, and they were cast iron pants," she added with a twinkle in her eye.
Kofoed was a member of the School Belles, formed in 1972 at the Colonial Squire Restaurant on Shortman Road, Ripley. It was a group of retired Ripley Central School teachers residing in Ripley. The School Belles gave an annual scholarship to a graduating RCS senior who planned to make a career of teaching and raised funds for the Westfield hospital on more than one occasion. Monies were also raised to assist the Ripley Medical Center, which later was closed.
The former Edna Reid joined Ripley's First Presbyterian Church in 1927 at the age of 17. She was a member of the choir, taught Sunday school and attended for 83 years. She is the oldest living member of the impressive red brick country church at 20 W. Main.
One of Kofoeds preferred pastimes was mowing grass. She regularly cut her own 1 acre yard well into her late 1980s. At age 99, in the summer of 2010, she mowed her last lawn, just to see if she could still do it - and she was successful.
Two years ago, Kofoed's 100th celebration was attended by a multitude of Ripley residents who were her former kindergarten students at Ripley Central School, where she taught for 31 years from 1942 through 1973. New York State Senator Cathy Young of Olean, 57th District, was present and honored Kofoed by reading her 100th birthday proclamations from Michelle Obama at the White House, New York State Congressman Brian Higgins, County Executive Greg Edwards and Town of Ripley Supervisor Pete Ryan. Robyn Near Albright was guest speaker.
Kofoed's life and work have been the subject of articles published in several Chautauqua County publications.
A feature story by Julie Spears appeared in a local daily newspaper on Oct. 24, 2006, marking Kofoed's 96th birthday and including details about her career at Ripley Central School, where she served as its first kindergarten teacher.
"Her first teaching assignment was at the one room School Number 11 in Volutia where she taught grades one through eight from 1933 through 1941," Spears wrote. The school was located near what is now Crossroads Market.
"Mrs. Kofoed started Ripley's first kindergarten class in the old Union School on Ross Street in the fall of 1943. Her class was later moved to the present school building in 1945. Just about every resident of Ripley was her student from 1942 until 1973."
"Mrs. Kofoed has the perfect blend of strength and kindness a human being can have," said then Ripley teacher Karen Krause, now superintendent, on her favorite teacher. "Although she had no children of her own, she has influenced more children than one can count in a day. ... She has touched so many and meant so much to more people than we will ever know. She is a magnanimous light in this sometimes dark world. ... She is an angel on earth."
"I admire her spirit and her cheerfulness. Edna is such an amazing person," said Lana Potter, a Ripley resident who now resides in Ohio.
Kofoed was also featured in a story by Patricia Daughrity published in the Westfield Republican on Nov. 2, 2006.
"Born in Westfield in 1910, Kofoed moved to Ripley at age 4," Daughrity wrote. "A farmer's daughter, Kofoed recalls grapes, tree fruits and berries as her father's mainstay crops.
"She does not offer any secrets or recipes she attributes to her longevity. Rather, she credits heredity and cites her father, Herman Reid, who lived for 92 years."
According to Daughrity's story, Kofoed graduated from Ripley High School in 1929, later attending Fredonia Normal School where she earned a teaching degree in elementary education in 1932.
"I didn't get a teaching job the first year," Kofoed said.
"She worked for New York State Senator Hamilton at the Hamilton Mansion during this year," Daughrity wrote. "When Kofoed landed her first teaching job, Mr. Hamilton took her out to buy her first car. It was a 1930 Model A Ford Roadster and set her back $75."
Kofoed told Daughrity about commuting to Ripley from Westfield in the 1930s in the winter, which was "no easy feat."
"They didn't have antifreeze to put in your car radiator to keep it from freezing. ... We used water," Kofoed said.
"When she arrived at school, she drained the radiator, then refilled it at the end of her day for the drive back to Ripley," Daughrity wrote. "She gratefully recalls a time when winter claimed her car. Ripley mechanic Harry Gregory gave her a lift to school. Harry Gregory's Garage was located where Meeder's Restaurant is today.
"The new teacher was extremely dedicated. Even during crushing snowstorms, Kofoed made her way to the school on the hill."
Kofoed explained, "They didn't have snow days in the country. I had to be there because a student would come and couldn't get in the school. They would freeze out there."
Daughrity included some of Kofoed's recollections of some laughable moments she experienced as a teacher, including some stories about misbehaving children: "Troublemakers were commonly put under the teacher's desk. She remembers one little boy who tied her shoelaces together while being reprimanded under the desk. Another helped himself to her lunch which was stashed under her desk."
Kofoed had a powerful effect on her community, which Daughrity summed up:
"Though she didn't have children of her own, Mrs. Kofoed has touched the lives of hundreds of children and influenced them powerfully during critical developmental years. For this reason, her students were 'her' children and they were just as richly blessed by her natural love and ability as she was by theirs. This easy mutual bonding enabled her to remember for decades nearly every child by name, or by face or by anecdote. With genuine affection she says, 'I wish I could tell every one of them how wonderful they were.'"