Meg Loncharic: Erie bridge player, church volunteer to celebrate 100th birthday

Erie Times-News

Given our current health crisis, uplifting news is so vital these days. We’ve been cooped up since the pandemic started, so when Barbara Hutzelman wrote in an email about her friend Esther Tregler of Erie turning 100 years old on Feb. 11, it easily warranted attention.

Hutzelman said, “You would never in a million years think that she is close to that milestone. She lives independently in her home and, until COVID, volunteered once each week to help in the office at her church, the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. This is the first year that she has not gone to Florida for the winter, and that is only because of COVID-19.”

Tregler grew up as a Methodist minister’s daughter, one of three children. She graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1943. She was married to Bob Tregler, who died in 1988, and they had three children. The Treglers also were blessed with two grandsons and a great-granddaughter.

Together, Esther and Bob Tregler owned and ran The Tregler Gallery, now defunct, in northwest Erie. It had quality antiques as well as very fine estate jewelry. Every year, they would head south to visit friends in the Cayman Islands and buy items for the gallery along the way. For many years, the couple played in the Erie Philharmonic. Esther Tregler played the French horn, while Bob Tregler played the violin.

Without in-person church services since COVID-19, Esther Tregler uses the Sunday bulletin published by her church and follows the order of service, playing the hymns on her piano and singing along. And, so I’m told, she makes terrific peach jam from the peaches on her tree and gives it to her friends.

Word is Esther Tregler has changed little since a stay at a Tionesta campground in 2006 when she and her bridge club were at “bridge camp.” It’s what they called a weekend in Calla Joy Rose‘s camper, mostly playing bridge and taking time out for leisure walks and sitting around the campfire.

Hutzelman shared that until COVID-19, “Esther played bridge as many times a week as possible with groups at Mercy Hilltop Center and duplicate bridge at the Regency at South Shore, as well as with our little group of four friends at ‘bridge camp’ in Tionesta.

“When the (Erie Times-News) still published Erie regional bridge results,” Hutzelman added, “Esther’s name appeared on a regular basis as top scorer.”

Positive programming

Another example of uplifting news is the Rev. Gary Larson, a retired Presbyterian minister in Erie, putting his new leisure to good use during these difficult times. He has written a second book, titled “Peeling Back the Layers,” out last fall. It’s a short book of essays on a wide range of topics in 140 pages and 38 chapters. Larson, 73, has been described by his friend radio DJ Allan Carpenter as a “backyard philosopher.” Larson’s wife, Sarah Larson, a retired clinical counselor, is a past president of the Erie Branch, American Association of University Women.

As for Gary Larson’s book, it’s an easy read but sure to prompt thought, laughter or a tear. This latest project comes two years after the publication of “Harbor Yarns,” a fictional story about the fishing village of Little Cove. In its 93 pages and 15 chapters, you’ll find more than a dozen sketches produced by his younger son, Jesse Larson, a minister in Sacramento, California.

Tea treasure

Lucky are those who were registered for the Hagen History Center’s virtual Afternoon Tea Experience on Jan. 24. Not only did they receive a take-away cake box filled with traditional English tea delicacies, but each luncheon box also contained a tea bag and charming teacup and saucer to keep. The teacups were gifts courtesy of the caterer, Jane Simon. They’re from her personal collection of more than 200 that spans 13 years.

The wife of the Rev. Pimen Simon, rector of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity, Jayne Simon hosts the tea room for the church’s Troika Festival ordinarily held Memorial Day weekend. It wasn’t held in 2020 for obvious reasons, but plans are still pending for the 2021 edition of the Russian festival at the church on Erie’s Front Street.

For now, writing takes up much of Jane Simon’s leisure time. Her newest book, “The Music of My Heart,” published by The Wild Rose Press, has a release date of Feb. 24. It’s a story about forgiveness, hope and love. It’s surely right for these difficult times.

More good news

Sarah Mariella, executive director of Mercy Hilltop Center, 444 E. Grandview Blvd., sends news that the facility is moving to a building of its own in early March. The center’s new home will be at 3715 Pennsylvania Ave., just a few miles from its current location. “Mercy Hilltop Center has been blessed to operate out of the west wing of the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse for the past 47 years,” Mariella said.

“We will update the community through our Facebook page,, as well as our email list,” said Mariella, who is starting her third year as director. To be added to the list, send a request to [email protected]

Mercy Hilltop Center, a nondenominational facility with about 400 members, started in 1973 as Mercy Center on Aging and changed its named in 2010. It has been serving the seniors of Erie County through a variety of classes and activities including fitness, disease prevention and health education, learning lectures, card games, quilting groups and other community-based activities.

Its mission is to keep older adults as independent as possible, with a focus on mind, spirit and body wellness, enabling all to live a productive, harmonious and healthy lifestyle. COVID-19 has stopped it from offering in-person services, but Mariella and her staff are excited to begin preparations for the new location. The center will begin renovations in March in preparation for a grand opening at a time to be determined.

POSTSCRIPT: It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a clear path to happiness. – Sheryl Sandberg (b. 1969), American business executive, activist and writer.

Reach Meg Loncharic at [email protected]

Latest posts