Eastpointe woman turns 100

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 9, 2016

 Felber talks about some photos from her life. In the foreground is her birthday cake with a big “100” frosted on the top.

Felber talks about some photos from her life. In the foreground is her birthday cake with a big “100” frosted on the top.

Photo by John McTaggart

Advertisement

EASTPOINTE — Longtime resident Welda Felber celebrated her 100th birthday Jan. 31 with a massive party that saw about 174 guests.

Felber was born Welda Gorlitz on Jan. 31, 1916, at her grandmother’s house on Holcomb Avenue in Detroit. At the time, she said, children were typically born at home and not in hospitals. Felber said her family continued to live with her grandmother until the woman’s death when

Felber was 4 or 5 years old, at which time they moved in with her paternal grandmother at Canton and Mack.

“In those days, the grandmother ruled the house,” Felber said. “Whatever Grandma said, you did. If she said wash the dishes, you did it without question. She decided I should go to Sunday school.”

Felber said she started attending a church at that time, and she has continued to do so since then despite name changes and mergers with other churches. She also started attending grammar school, where she picked up cooking and sewing — the latter becoming a lifelong pastime — and even sewed her own high school graduation dress. The Great Depression was in full swing by that time, Felber said, and people had to learn to make their own clothes.

“I made my own clothes,” Felber said. “I made all my own suits. I used to go downtown and see what they had in the windows, and then I would copy it; I would get the material and sew it.”

She also enjoyed taking the streetcar to a dance club on Woodward, spending her Sunday evenings dancing until midnight.

Upon reaching the ninth grade, Felber transferred to Eastern High School and graduated in 1935. She then started looking for work, taking on a factory job at the Hupp Motor Car Co. making Hupmobiles. Due to a lack of seniority, however, Felber said she was laid off after only a few months on the job.

Felber then took a factory job at the Packard Motor Car Co., where she met her future husband, Samuel Cole, on the job.

“He cut the materials out for the cushions and I sewed the cushions,” she said. “Then I married him in 1942.”

During World War II, Packard moved into engine production, and Felber said that due to her seniority, she oversaw 30-40 women on the line. She said she worked until the end of the war before taking a “leave of absence” to start a family.

“I’m still on leave,” Felber quipped. “I’ve still got the papers upstairs.”

Eventually, Felber and her husband had two children — her son, Timothy, and her daughter, Prudence — and moved to Eastpointe in 1950, but Felber was not content to just be a stay-at-home mother. She joined the Eastern Stars, the Daughters of the Nile and the Ladies of the Oriental Shrine, three organizations related to the Shriners and open only to women related in some way to a Masonic member.

Samuel Cole died in 1957, and now a widow and single mother, Felber took a job in the East Detroit Assessing Department in September 1958. She continued to work there until she was nearly 62, in December 1977.

“I was a widow, but I went to all my organizations still, because I had a babysitter — nothing stopped me,” Felber said. “That’s the secret of living long, according to me, is join everything and go to everything and like people.”

Felber also remarried, getting wedded to Daniel Felber in 1966. She stayed with him until his death in December 1977, shortly before her retirement.

Even in retirement, Felber has kept herself busy. She continues to serve with the Eastern Stars and the Ladies of the Oriental Shrine, meeting monthly with some of the other members for lunch and games. Felber said she still sews, making bonnets for babies baptized in her church — now known as the Hope United Church of Christ — and until recently gardened at her home. Now her son, Timothy Cole, helps out with the gardening.

Felber said she still likes going out and socializing.

“She’s pretty spry for a 100-year-old,” Timothy Cole said.

Felber has traveled the world with her Shriner organizations, visiting northern Europe, Russia while it was still part of the Soviet Union, Mexico, Panama, Japan and China. At the age of 80, she rode across the U.S. with her younger brother, Al Gorlitz, as they drove west to California before returning through Wisconsin and northern Michigan.

She said the biggest changes she has noticed around Eastpointe over the decades include demographic changes — the city is more racially diverse now than when she first moved into her home back in 1950 — and the number of renters has increased as well.

Though she said the rental houses are usually kept up pretty well, there is a degree of civic pride that she said has fallen away over time due to people no longer all owning their homes or knowing all their long-term neighbors.

The Eastpointe City Council issued a proclamation congratulating Felber on her birthday during its meeting Feb. 2.

Advertisement