Tabernacle’s Clarence Grovatt celebrates 100th birthday

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It is not often that someone gets to live to be 100 years old. However, Tabernacle’s Clarence B. Grovatt achieved that milestone a little more than a week ago.

The Grovatt family, friends and government officials came out on Saturday, Aug. 13 to celebrate Clarence’s 100th birthday on Aug. 15. More than 195 people came to the celebration at the Tabernacle United Methodist Church where Clarence received cards, gifts, desserts, a proclamation and a key to the township.

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“I was dumbfounded,” Clarence said about his birthday party.

Clarence didn’t think his 100th birthday party would be a big celebration, however his daughters-in-law Cynthia and Pat said they had to do something. It started with just families and friends, but grew into so much more when they were contacted by multiple people wanting to honor Clarence for his 100th birthday.

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On behalf of the Township Committee, Mayor Stephen Lee IV gave Clarence a key to the township along with a proclamation. A representative from Congressman Tom McArthur’s office spoke about Clarence, too. Local businesses donated flowers and cake for the celebration.

A highlight of the birthday was The New Spirit Quartet, one of Clarence’s favorite singing groups, singing “Happy Birthday” to him, and he was named an honorary member of the Ever Ready Hunting Club. Of course, Clarence was happy to see family and friends from near and far.

Clarence was born on Aug. 15, 1916, in the Grovatt family farmhouse on Springside Road in Rancocas. His parents were Nelson L. Grovatt and Jeannette (Friend) Grovatt. He grew up with his older brothers Edward, Russell, Howard, Walter and his sister Alice VanSciver and younger sibling Nelson Jr.

Clarence came from a family of farmers, his grandfather being one, and worked on the farm since he was 5. Clarence said they didn’t have machines back then to farm, everything was by hand. He remembered going from hoes, to horses and machines, and to his family’s first tractor with metal wheels. Clarence said his father asked him before his brothers to learn to drive the tractor.

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After graduating high school, Clarence worked for his dad on the farm during the summer and in the winter worked at Bud’s Manufacturing plant in Philadelphia. He said it was around the time of the Depression, so many people were laid off, but he kept being transferred to different departments, finally ending up in welding.

In 1939, Bud’s Manufacturing changed to Chevrolet Chassis to make airplanes. Clarence became a full-time instructor, teaching “Rosie Riveters” how to weld. Each time the draft was up, Clarence was excused.

In 1940, Clarence married his wife Sadie Emily VanSciver. The first time Clarence met Sadie was an interesting one, as he was 7 and she was 3. Sadie’s mother came in and saw Clarence on the couch and put Sadie in his lap to watch her. That was the first of his many encounters with Sadie, before leading to their marriage.

In 1942, Sadie’s father died and Clarence quit his job to take over Sadie’s father’s farm in Willingboro, where Route 130 is now. They grew corn, tomatoes, peaches and pumpkins. When the town started to be developed, Clarence sold his land to Acme and acquired land in Tabernacle to move his family.

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Clarence, with the help of friends and family, built the house and structures still located on his land today. Then, Clarence moved his family to their home in Tabernacle Township in 1959. His main crop was sweet corn, and he was one of the first sweet corn farmers in the area to have a corn harvester.

Clarence and Sadie had four children, Benjamin, Beverlee, Janet and Theodore. Clarence and Sadie were blessed with 74 years of marriage before she passed away on July 5, 2014. From their children, Clarence has nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Clarence doesn’t farm much anymore. His sons manage the Grovatt farm and rent the land to the Russos. However, Clarence still keeps farming in his life as he has a small garden in his yard and helped to plow the field earlier this year.

“I never officially retired,” Clarence said. “I just slowed down.”

Clarence said he is often asked what his secret is to live to 100 years old and Clarence said he has never smoked a cigarette or drank hard liquor. He also exercises, eats many fruits and veggies, and sets priorities to do each day. You can always see him working in the garden, mowing the lawn or taking care of the buildings.

“Live a clean life and keep busy…If something needs to get done, I do it. No sense worrying about it,” Clarence said.

For the future, Clarence said he is going to keep doing what he’s always been doing.

Clarence has one cousin, Melvin Grovatt, who is 102 years old and another cousin, Olive Grovatt, who will be 100 in the fall.

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