PERRY -- Before she left for college and went off to see the world, Margery Zerko told her aunt about her dreams and aspirations.
My goodness! her aunt said. If you do all that, your life will be like a hopscotch.
After writing her 313-page memoirs in 2004, Zerko had no difficulty coming up with a title: My Hopscotch Life.
The book covers her years as a missionary, teacher and as a veteran of the Womens Army Corps. Asked why she wrote her autobiography at age 87, she once said: Its a pity to die with the music still inside you.
Zerko will celebrate her 97th birthday on Dec. 16. She is a resident at Summerhill Senior Living Community in Perry. She moved into the assisted living facility last year.
Her longtime friend, Nora Thomas, asked if readers of the Reindeer Gang might send Zerko a birthday card. Zerkos husband, Fred, died in 1978, and she has no children. The days are long and lonely.
Reindeer Gang readers are also urged to send generic Christmas cards to be distributed to the 155 residents at Summerhill. Past holiday card campaigns at St. Paul Apartments in Macon and Bolingreen Health & Rehabilitation in Bolingbroke resulted in thousands of Christmas wishes for residents at those facilities, courtesy of the Reindeer Gang.
Zerko was born in Perry in 1916 and was one of four children. Her parents owned a dry goods store. A Dominos Pizza is now located where her old home place once stood, at the corner of Washington Street and Northside Drive, across from the Perry branch library.
She worked in military hospitals in Europe during World War II, then continued her career overseas as a Methodist missionary.
She met her husband, Fred, on a train in North Africa. He was from Austria and spoke limited English. She was fluent in French. They lived in Paris and New York City before returning to her hometown, where Fred was an electrician.
Thomas met Zerko 45 years ago when they both began attending Crossroads Methodist Church in Perry. Both of their husbands were named Fred.
Zerko never had children, but treated all five of the Thomas children as if they were her own.
She certainly has been a mentor to me, Thomas said. She is an example of how to age gracefully.