Born on the Fourth of July

Page News and Courier The Shenandoah Valley-Herald The Warren Sentinel

BENTONVILLE, June 28 — A few minutes before lunch is served, Margo Glavis sits in the lobby of Hidden Springs Senior Living, beaming up at person after person who stops to say hello.
Here, everyone knows Margo — the spunky centenarian who smiles brightly and often, greets each visitor by the hand and speaks in sophisticated prose.
Even if Margo doesn’t know you, even if she doesn’t remember you, she’ll flash a smile and share a story from the last 106 years.
On July 4, she’ll add another year of stories.
Cue the fireworks.
When Margo came to the U.S. more than eight decades ago, she joked that the entire nation celebrated her Independence Day birthday, Margo’s daughter, Margo Glavis Lyddane, remembers her mother saying.
Sitting in a private dining room at the Warren County assisted living facility, Margo sips a cup of coffee and recounts the years leading up to her move.
Born on July 4, 1906, in Germany, Margo was one of three sisters. Their father, an architect, built the family’s home with a huge marble staircase and a gym, where the girls took weekly lessons from a gymnastics instructor.
During World War I, the family fled to Munich, where Margo studied languages, spent warm summer days swimming and riding horses and joined the Girl Scouts. She traveled as a teenager with the association to Berlin, where she competed in and won several athletic events.
If there’s one secret to longevity, Margo says it’s staying active.
“It was very, very important for us — for me particularly — that I become strong as a girl, that I was supervised and taught in the gymnasium,” Margo says, noting that she spent much of her life running, bicycling and learning acrobatics. “That, I prescribe to my long living and my strong physique.”
At the onset of Adolph Hitler’s rise around 1930, Margo moved to Boston, Mass., to teach German at Wellesley College. A few years later, she was working as a teacher at New York City’s Chapin School, attending classes at Columbia University and teaching German on a Manhattan radio station when Margo met her husband, George Glavis.
The pair moved to Washington, D.C., and had two children before George passed away just several years later around 1939.
Margo never remarried.
Taking another sip of coffee, Margo says she remained in Northern Virginia for most of her life, raising her son and daughter and frequenting George’s grave with flowers. Later, Margo worked for the federal government.
As lunch continues, the lively centenarian weaves in and out of anecdotes — driving up the coast of California during her honeymoon, the thrill of swinging upside down on a trapeze, the gift of a gold chain link necklace from her late sister, which Margo has worn every day for four decades.
“I expect to have a birthday in a few days,” Margo says. “I will be 107 years old.
“That’s a ripe old age.”
It’s a ripe old age that’s seen two world wars, 19 U.S. presidents, the sinking of the Titanic, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, the galvanization of modern Civil Rights, man walking on the moon and the invention of the World Wide Web.
On Thursday, Margo will once again celebrate her birthday with America. And while the nation marks its 237th year of independence, this German immigrant is one of few who can say she was around for nearly half of it.

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