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CALLICOON RESIDENT MARGARET Wagner, seated center, will celebrate her 100th birthday on Labor Day, but her family showed up to celebrate with her last weekend, including (from the left) children Barbara Addonizio, Denise George, Frank Wagner and Peg Wagner.

A Century Of Life

For Margaret Wagner

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — When Margaret Wagner moved to town, the Erie Railroad still offered passenger service to Callicoon.
She arrived from her native Jersey City, NJ, however, via automobile in 1930, setting up a home with her new husband, Frank, the following year.
Known as “the little white house,” it sat next to Frank’s parents’ place, a 15-room, circa-1901 boardinghouse Joseph and Lena Wagner ran at their farm high atop a hill overlooking Callicoon and the Delaware River valley.
Margaret and Frank raised three of their four children in that small home before moving in with Lena and Margaret’s mother Mary in the massive boardinghouse itself during the 1950s.
Frank, a longtime mailman, passed away in 1972, but Margaret never left Callicoon.
“I loved it,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
And inside that very home this past Saturday – surrounded by dozens of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a living room seemingly unchanged from its inception – Margaret Wagner celebrated her 100th birthday.
It’s not quite official yet, though.
Born in Newark in 1906 to Dennis and Mary Reardon, Margaret’s actual birthday is September 4. However, since that falls on Labor Day, August 26 proved more practical to get a busy family – four children, 11 grandchildren and 20 great-grandkids – together.
And it’s not just an active family – relatives are scattered across the country: Maine, North Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Washington.
Not a one still lives in Callicoon, but they all have good reason to return home every year: indeed, she was right there Saturday, sitting calmly on the couch.
Perhaps that’s why Margaret seemed unperturbed by the ruckus throughout her three-story home that day – she’s used to it.
That, and she just plain likes it.
“It’s wonderful to have all the kids here,” she expressed. “It’s so wonderful for them to come!”
Sounds like they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I’m happy to be here anytime,” remarked daughter Peg Wagner, now a resident of Mt. Kisco. “We’re just so lucky that she’s here.”
“She’s always been here for all of us,” added Barbara Addonizio, Margaret’s second-oldest and an Easton, Pa. resident.
“She used to give great birthday parties,” said Denise George, the youngest of Margaret’s four children.
Of course, Denise complicated her mother’s life by initially starting the birthday party tradition by inviting her then-elementary school friends to her house – without Mom’s knowledge.
The day before, Denise revealed her invitations, and Margaret found herself scrambling to bake a cake and get the place ready for a dozen or so rambunctious girls.
“It was lots of fun!” recalled Denise with a mischievous smile.
Eating the cake probably was the highlight, as Margaret’s cooking has long inspired praise.
“I’m glad to come back here occasionally for the food,” joked her son, Frank, now of Syracuse.
Well, he was only half-joking – turns out eating at the Wagner homestead is a highlight of the trip for any family member.
“She’s an awesome cook,” said granddaughter Carol Rollins (Barbara’s daughter) of Philadelphia, Pa. “She makes an awesome chocolate cake… And she’s great with the kids.”
The younger set agreed.
“She makes me feel young,” said great-granddaughter and new Air Force recruit Lisa Bogert, referring to Margaret’s own youthful exuberance.
Indeed, that’s what strikes the fourth generation as much as great-grandma’s cooking.
“She’s so active – it’s amazing,” remarked Margaret’s teenage great-granddaughter Erica Addonizio, who is one of the “closer” relatives, as she lives in New Jersey. “She’s always been here and now, wow, she’s going to be 100!”
Many more grandkids and great-grandchildren told of her cooking, her active lifestyle, her faith (she’s a longtime communicant of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church), her welcoming spirit.
“I look forward to seeing all of them,” replied Margaret, unable to hide her love and pride for a family that features accomplished professionals, rising students and no less than five veterans.
It’s a family that has been raised in a warm, loving environment, where values and traditions were instilled, yet where new members and visitors have always been welcomed.
Not a one’s birthday, anniversary or graduation is missed in her continuous flow of cards, phone calls and letters, and just because she’ll soon be 100 doesn’t mean she’s going to slow down.
“The days just fly by… [but] I don’t feel old,” she remarked in her matter-of-fact way. “It’s my body, not my mind.”

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