RIPLEY - Edna Reid Kofoed celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 30 in the banquet room of Meeder's restaurant in her hometown, Ripley. Her milestone was marked with a full house of friends, neighbors, family and dignitaries.
Bejeweled with a double red rose corsage, the gracious centenarian was honored for much more than her longevity. Topping the list was her unshakable kindness and generous approach toward students during her 41-year teaching career in the Ripley area. Former students far and wide described her lasting impact on their early development. "She made everyone special," said one of Kofoed's former kindergarten students, now in his 70s.
One particular kindergarten graduation ceremony illustrated Kofoed's warmth and love for children. Kofoed called the graduate-elects one by one in alphabetical order, but skipped over Larry Bahl. She called every other name until little Larry was the last one on stage.
Sen. Cathy Young shares a moment with the guest of honor, Edna Kofoed.
"What's going on?" Larry's mother, Martha Bahl, silently fretted in the audience, "Did she forget my child?!"
Then, with all of the diplomas dispersed but one, Kofoed called little Larry forward. She saved him for last to recognize him for his perfect attendance. Kofoed gave Larry his diploma, a wallet and a $1 bill for his exemplary record. Mrs. Bahl's concern swiftly evaporated as she inflated with pride in her son, and special appreciation for Kofoed.
Building on Kofoed's renowned compassion, Senator Cathy Young drew a correlation between ripples on water to the ever widening positive influence Kofoed has instilled within children, former students, peers, friends and family. Young attended the entire celebration.
During the course of the birthday program, Ripleyite Mary Beth Chess stated Kofoed was an 85-year member of the First Presbyterian Church of Ripley, joining at the age of 15 in 1925. The invocation, delivered by Chess, called for more teachers like her, whose kindnesses carried generational impact.
Kofoed was in her 90s when she took Chess under her wing. Chess took her for country rides, and recalled Kofoed teaching her all the back roads in Westfield, Ripley and North East, Pa.
"I learned where places were like Ox Bow Road and Volusia," Chess recounted with a grin. For five years, Chess acted as Kofoed's bookkeeper, caregiver, driver and personal secretary. Reflecting on those five years spent closely with the elder, Chess divulged, "She's one of those people you wished you'd met sooner."
Each speaker had something unique and endearing to say about their relationship with Kofoed. Additional written tributes were shared from Congressman Brian Higgins, Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards, and "Today" show celebrity and meteorologist Willard Scott.
Prior to the celebration, Kofoed shared her secrets of living. She credited her longevity to her strong faith, hard work, a generous and loving spirit, a physically active lifestyle and travel.
When asked what advice she would give to young people today, Kofoed offered, "Don't make snap decisions. Think things over and do the right thing."
If the special gathering was the evergreen tree, and the accolades the ornaments, then Pete Ryan delivered the star on top. In his proclamation, Ripley's town supervisor declared Oct. 30 as "Edna Reid Kofoed Day," to forever commemorate the teacher's extraordinary warmth and far-reaching contribution to her students' development and future.
Edna Reid Kofoed was born Oct. 31, 1910.
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