Edwina “Winnie” Reese grew up in the Philadelphia-area neighborhood called Roxborough. Her father was a pressman for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“He left school at 16,” Winnie says. “He worked there for 25 years.”
Her mother was legally blind, without 85 percent of her vision. “When I was a child that was the only thing I knew of her. The older I get, the more I realize how remarkable she was.”
In 2011, Winnie came to Homeland, to help her sister, resident Lou Hepschmidt. She learned to play bingo and made friends with other residents. All three daughters -- “three of the most wonderful women you’d ever meet” – pledged to visit every month, and they have (quarantine excepted). Two drive in from Montgomery County and the third takes a train from New York once a month, rents a car, visits for a couple of hours, and then gets back on the train.
On Winnie’s birthday this November, the Pennsylvania daughters surprised Winnie with an outdoor, socially distanced visit.
“That was the first time I’d seen them since February,” she says. “There was so much excitement, with them coming and surprising me. I had no idea they were coming. They just told me I had visitors at the gate, but I couldn’t figure out who it could be.”
Today, Winnie has five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, “and one more on the way.” In past years, the family would rent a house at Ocean City, New Jersey, for a week around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Those gatherings were “wonderfully fun,” and the cousins are all good friends. “I’m very blessed,” says Winnie.
Winnie describes herself as “very sickly” when she was a girl, but she managed to attend Roxborough High School. That was where she met her husband, William. Her last name was Reber, and his was Reese, so he was usually right behind her in the classroom seating. Around their senior year, they started dating.
They got married in 1944, at age 19. With his terrible vision, he had been considered 4F for the draft, but four months after they married, William was called up into the Army.
After William returned, he went back to his old job for a time, with a company making underfloor electrical distribution systems. “Those years are pretty much a blur,” Winnie says. “I had three kids in three years.” The family ended up moving to Montgomery County, outside of Plymouth Meeting.
She finally recovered from her sickly childhood when her first daughter was born, four years after she got married. “I only weighed 89 pounds when I got married,” she says. When her first daughter was three years old, she had twin girls.
Winnie worked for the Girl Scouts in Philadelphia for 23 years as the administrative assistant to the executive director.
William died when he was only 61, and Winnie managed on her own. She had always loved playing pinochle, so she joined a group of about 12 other pinochle players from her church, “and we had a wonderful time.”
From that group, she learned a recipe for “Bert’s pumpkin bread,” named after her dear friend Bertha. The pumpkin bread was a staple of many gatherings, and Winnie contributed the recipe to “Heritage Recipes from Homeland Center,” the cookbook published in 2017 to commemorate Homeland’s 150th anniversary.
Ask her what she likes about Homeland, Winnie simply says: “Everything.’’
“If I could pick it up and move it back to Montgomery County, it’d be perfect,’’ she says. “This is an exceptional place.”
She used to visit people from her church who were in nursing homes, and none of those places could compare to Homeland, she says.
“The people that work here are so good, so kind and thoughtful. They bend over backwards to do things for you. They’re very caring.”