Ageless Elegance

By Jen Merrill

8 Fashionable Midstaters Talk Style, Beauty, and More

We’re constantly surrounded by the idea that youth equals beauty. Advertisements relentlessly aim to sell us the fountain of youth in 2-ounce bottles of creams and elixirs. Yet, there’s such beauty in aging, such exquisiteness in the way we mature the way we’re intended to.

Harrisburg Magazine talked to eight local residents from Bethany Village and Messiah Village about their evolving thoughts on aging, style and beauty and how it’s all so closely intertwined.

Pat Pursell, 84

Bethany Village

Pat, a mother of four, previously sold real estate and stays very active in politics. She also worked briefly in fashion, where she says she wore the clothes they handed her, but she didn’t buy them. As far as her style is concerned, Pat says it hasn’t changed much over the years.

“Maybe I will put on an extra necklace these days. I think I’ve always been attracted to a more tailored look. I don’t wear a lot of color,” says Pat. “I know I buy things that are more classic, that aren’t the current trend. Some trendy accents are nice. I would tend to say that it helps to underdress as opposed to overdress in this day and age particularly.”

Pat believes that, as we age, we gain confidence and become more content with ourselves, which she finds great comfort in.

“We accept ourselves for what we are instead of trying to make ourselves into something else that we think looks better. Because that’s useless; it doesn’t work. Through my life, I have found every stage to be enjoyable, not that it’s without problems and troubles,” says Pursell. “We all have that. But there’s just something wonderful wherever you are, from your 20s to your 80s.”

Carol Cressler, 69

Clyde Cressler, 71

Bethany Village

Carol and Clyde met back in their days of attending Shippensburg University and will have been together for 50 years this June. They own 18 Medicine Shoppe pharmacies, stay active in their church and enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren. As far as style is concerned, Carol is certainly the fashion gatekeeper of the couple.

“She picks out my clothes. She buys them and lays them out, and I put them all on, so that’s my ‘style,’” explains Clyde.

“In the last five years or so, I started color coordinating us every day. So if I get a new color, like pink, I have to go find him something pink,” says Carol.

Carol describes the couple’s style as “collegiate,” and says that they’ve always had an interest in clothing. That interest even led Carol to open a dress shop in Meadville, Pa. in the 1980s.

“I’ve always thought clothing was fun, and you should have your own style. I think it’s neat when you see people of all ages with different styles,” she says.

Clyde enjoys his low-maintenance lifestyle with his wife, and after almost five decades together, their love remains stronger than ever.

“I think my wife is the most beautiful person ever, both externally and internally,” says Clyde. “So if she changes, the whole world has to change.”

Louise Weldy, 87

Bethany Village

Louise certainly likes to keep busy. She goes to the pool three days a week and participates in stretch class, mat class and yoga two other days each week. And, as the true social butterfly she is, she participates in “whatever social comes along.” When it comes to style, Louise opts for a solid-color base that she can build upon with fun accents and pops of color.

“I start with the basics. Basic black or a solid color can be accessorized. I love accessories and jackets,” says the retired art teacher. “A lot of my scarves and jackets are vintage. My older items just last. They’re much better made than the current clothing.”

While reflecting on beauty, Louise notes the importance of proper skin care, including daily use of sunscreen.

“In the days when I was in college, all of my summers were spent at a summer resort. I’d go out in the middle of the day and sunbathe with baby oil and iodine, and I’d fry. We didn’t know anything about that, and consequently, since the ’50s, I’ve had a good relationship with my dermatologist.”

June Kostrab, 71

Bethany Village

June grew up in Saudi Arabia and spent eight years overseas while working with the CIA. She’s worked on and off for 42 years, and after two rounds of retiring, she’s actually doing it for real this time. And loving it.

“When you retire, you definitely go a lot more casual. But I still like to dress,” says June. “My style has changed drastically over the years. I really like the styles of the ’60s and the Jackie-Onassis-type look. I love clothes. When my sister, who is 10 years younger than me, and my niece, who is still in her 20s, like some of my stuff, I think, ‘OK, I’m not over-the-hill yet.’”

June encourages that she “will never go gray,” so no matter the weather, she refuses to miss her monthly hair appointment.  She keeps her youthful glow by preaching, “moisturizer, moisturizer, moisturizer!” And while her weight has fluctuated over the years, she feels passionately that you can look great no matter what the size tag says on the inside of your blouse.

“I’ve had moments of thinness, but I’ve been overweight a good part of my life,” explains June. “But it doesn’t matter. You can still look nice. I’ve always been into make-up and fixing up my hair.”

Anita Ord, 84

Messiah Village

A retired registered nurse, Anita worked at Holy Spirit Hospital for 23 years.  She says her occupation of choice taught her a lot about self-confidence; if you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t get through.  And that sense of strength is what’s truly beautiful.

“Your personality reflects your beauty, and you don’t have to be physically beautiful to really be a beautiful person. How you relate to and respect other people is the biggest thing,” says Anita.

Anita has definitely noticed a change in her wardrobe over the years, predominately the switch to more casual clothing, especially since she lost her husband in 2011.

“As far as I’m concerned, less is more. I have found that as I get older, I don’t find nearly as many dresses or skirts that I could wear as I did when I was younger. So naturally, I wind up with pants, mostly,” she says.

Anita jokes that she would love to have some Botox but thinks “it’s a little too late” for that.

“Someone said, ‘They ought to have a course in Aging 101.’ I said, ‘You don’t want to know until you get there. If you knew before, you wouldn’t even want to get there,’” says Anita with a chuckle before a sense of contentment washes over her face. “But it really can be very satisfying, too.”

Peggie Potts, 85

Messiah Village

Peggie wears nothing but dresses, and her dresses are like no other. No, seriously, they’re all custom-made, one-of-a-kind creations. While spending time in Central America – she and her husband spent 27 years going to remote villages in Guatemala, Honduras and Belize with the Christian Medical and Dental Society – she decided to commission a local tailor to create a simple empire-waist dress without the use of a pattern. Since then, she’s been hooked to that process.

“It’s much easier to do it this way. There are no dresses for me in the stores. There are none. My theory was, ‘This is the way I want to dress, and if the stores aren’t selling it, I will find a way,’” explains the retired speech pathologist. “And it makes it very easy for me to get accessories. I have all kinds of fabric in my pocketbook from the last four or five dresses.”

She credits designer Laura Ashley for helping her to figure out a silhouette that worked best for her “true American pear” shape. With her striking white bob, which she regularly transformed into a “white afro” before going on mission trips, eclectic mix of accessories and unique frocks, Peggie has never been afraid to stand out.

“You have to remember: don’t be afraid to do your own thing. I mean, within reason, obviously,” she says with a grin. “We lived and traveled a lot and saw a lot. To each their own.”

Mona Hershey, 90

Messiah Village

“I’m blessed with good health and too much energy. That sometimes gets me in trouble,” says Mona with a smirk. “I want to run the place, and they won’t let me.”

And she definitely could run the place. Mona manages the gift shop, volunteers about 40 hours a month, hostesses and participates in a variety of social engagements at Messiah Village. And though this lady is always going, going, going, she emaphasizes the importance of letting go.

“You can be satisfied with less. Some people, as they get older, and I understand why they do it, but they hate to give up their things. But it’s so liberating,” she encourages.

Mona describes her sense of style as always being “on the plain side or classic,” often opting for vintage pieces that she’s had for over 25 years. She still holds on to some of the dressier pieces that she used to wear when she traveled for work, even if she doesn’t get quite as much wear out of them anymore.

Mona loved her work as a purchasing manager for a small company that was later bought out by DuPont. One of her managerial duties included enforcing the business dress code on her fellow employees.

“I think young people are giving too much away. There’s no mystery,” she says. “Don’t give up so much. It should be for a heavy date or a special party.”