UPDATE – To see the Centenarian ad from Genworth Financial featuring Ed Rondthaler, follow the directions here.
It seems every year during the family gatherings around the holidays I learn something new, or rediscover some interesting tidbit about my family. This year my father mentioned our eldest relative, a cousin of my grandmother’s (I think), and also my father’s godfather, Edward Rondthaler. I remembered him most from family gatherings on the Connecticut shore almost every summer while growing up. As a little kid I thought he was a fascinating old man who told really great stories and jokes. When I was a bit older I visited him again with my family, at his home, and was amazed at how many books filled his old house, and was impressed that at his age he knew his way around a computer (in the days before Windows). I always thought he was an interesting man, but at the time I never learned much about his history.
In conversation with my family on Christmas Eve, my father mentioned that Ed Rondthaler had turned 100 years old in 2005 and had written a collection of thoughts, memories and anecdotes into a short memoir, 1905 – 2005. In it he writes just a paragraph or two on dozens of subjects including things such as education, news, doctors, showers and television. On topics big and small he describes how he has seen them change in 100 years. It’s fascinating to read. One of my favorites is his paragraph on ‘Girls’ which reveals some of his humor and old-fashionedness:
Girls. Tastes, of course, differ. But I think the fair sex today should look back at the 20s and 30s when we had a superb crop of high school and college girls. They dressed attractively — no overalls, no sloppy slacks, no T-shirts, no sneakers, certainly no $14,500 Bloomingdale designer dresses. They had long curls if possible — none of this kinky hair that you see on TV. They were neat, ladylike, and made you hope desperately that somehow the one you longed for would not discover what a bum piece of humanity you really were.
To which I heard a great response from a girl, “Maybe we gave that all up because we did discover what you really were.”
Edward Rondthaler’s legacy doesn’t end there with a few sentences reflecting on his past. He has also written a book titled Life With Letters: As they turned photogenic, which is part history, part autobiography on his experience with typography from the days of type-setting and letterpress. He was a co-founder of ITC, and perhaps also Photo-Lettering Inc., both of which brought countless popular typefaces into the world. A Google search even turned up this CNN Health article featuring Ed Rondthaler as a model centenarian, complete with a photo of the young chap.
Quite an impressive man. Now to track down a used copy of Ed’s book and his e-mail address.