Marguerite Koller is 99 and has 101 grandchildren

Life as an only child was lonely for Marguerite “Peg” Koller.

“I had to go outside to find kids to play with,” said Koller, 99, who grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in Montgomery County, Pa. “I sure wish I had siblings.”

More than just a brother or sister, she longed for a big family. So when the time came for her to start her own brood, she went with a “more is more” mentality.

Koller and her late husband, William, who came from a compact family of four, had 11 children, 56 grandchildren and per September 19. 101 great-grandchildren and counting.

“It’s amazing,” said Koller, who goes by “Grandma.”

She has fond memories of being a young mother. It was chaotic, sure, but “I look back and I don’t think about it being hard,” she said, except maybe getting everyone dressed and ready for church on time. But the small games were a nice exchange for having a full house.

“I just loved having them and having so many people around me,” she said, adding that her 11 children were born over a 19-year period.

At some point before she got married, however, she almost became a nun. As a teenager, she applied to join the monastery and was accepted.

Despite her hopes for a large family, “I just felt like I had a calling,” Koller said, explaining that she is a believer and Catholic.

It was her mother and then-boyfriend (who later became her husband of 66 years) who convinced her to get married instead, and in retrospect, she’s glad they did. Her family, she said, is her greatest source of pride.

In 1942, Koller married William Koller, a World War II veteran who died in 2008. Together, the couple started the Koller Funeral Home in Philadelphia, which still exists today and is run by several family members.

Boy with cancer hoped to see monsters. Strangers came in costume.

At first, the couple wasn’t sure how many children they wanted, but once they got going, “we just kept going,” Koller said, adding that her life was never lonely again.

The Koller children, for their part, loved living in a jam-packed household where there was no shortage of action and entertainment.

“It was such a great experience growing up in our family,” said Chris Kohler, 60, who was the ninth born and married a man with the same last name, although it was spelled differently. “Even now that we’re all grown up, we’re still such good friends.”

Having their steady parents as role models, she said, made the siblings close.

“They had such a good relationship,” Kohler said, explaining that they shared household chores equally, including cooking and cleaning. “They worked hand in hand in the business and at home.”

“They should always be together, always holding hands,” she continued. “I was hoping I would find something like that for myself.”

Go ahead and stare at my prosthesis. I know it’s great.

Not only did Kohler want to emulate her parents’ relationship, she also wanted the energy and richness of her childhood home.

“We had so many brothers and sisters around to play with and help us. That made an impression on me and so I always wanted to have a big family,” said Kohler, who has six children and 14 grandchildren so far .

Also her siblings all had an above average number of children. The fertility rate in the United States is 1.78 births per woman, and the majority of the 11 Koller siblings had more than five children each.

The many-siblings mindset was passed on to the next generation. Greg Stokes, 41, Koller’s grandson, is the father of four girls. “Coming from a big family, I always wanted people around me,” said Stokes, who has eight brothers and sisters. “I think everyone in my family wanted to have more children because of the energy and the excitement.”

Although he is one of 56 grandchildren, Stokes, who also lives in Montgomery County, easily developed a close bond with both of his grandparents. He has vivid memories of joining a local swimming club with his grandparents and cousins ​​in the summer, and he often takes his daughters there.

“Everybody’s always had a really close relationship with grandma and grandpa, and really with each other,” Stokes said, adding that he and his cousin lived together in college and for several years afterward. “We would spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and every Christmas Eve there is a big party.”

Through life’s challenges, including the death of his brother at age 12, having countless people to lean on made the pain easier to bear. “It’s definitely been a very unique experience,” Stokes said, adding that most of the extended family lives in Pennsylvania.

He plays college football at North Dakota. And he is 49 years old.

Part of what has kept them close, he continued, is his grandmother’s unwavering dedication to each member of the family. “She’s there for every high school and college graduation,” Stokes said. “She always makes an effort to be present.”

In fact, six years ago, when two family weddings were scheduled on the same day (danger of a large clan), she made it to both, despite the celebrations being more than an hour’s drive apart. She had a similar experience with two of her grandchildren’s graduation ceremonies.

“For all our kids’ graduations and baptisms and birthday parties, she would always be there,” Kohler said of her mother. “Her family is her life.” Koller loves participating in milestone events and believes they are important life markers.

“I don’t miss parties,” Koller said, explaining that her faith, a balanced diet and regular exercise — she lifts weights twice a day — are the secret to her long life. Koller passed on the same values ​​in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When Chrissy Balster’s son was born – bringing the number of great-grandchildren to 100 – she and her husband brought their newborn baby straight from the hospital to visit their grandmother.

“No matter the size of the family, how big it grows, how far away we are, the lessons that my grandparents started 75 years ago are very much ingrained in all of us,” said Balster, 34, whose son was born in August. 4, and was named “Koller William” after his great grandfather.

Presenting the 100th great-grandchild to her great-grandmother, Balster said, was a moment of pure joy for all of them, but especially her. “It was so exciting to bring these two amazing people together,” she said. “We’re just so lucky to be a part of her legacy.”

Holding her newborn great-grandson in her arms for the first time, “I thought about my husband,” Koller said. “He would be so excited.” Although it has become increasingly difficult to get the growing family together, the Kollers still hold an annual Christmas Eve party as well as regular reunions. They also stay connected through social media.

Just as Koller has never missed a major milestone, her family, which now consists of close to 250 people including spouses, also tries to be present at all her big celebrations.

The whole family, including the newest great-grandchild, who was born last week and is also named after his great-grandfather, William, is gathering to mark their matriarch’s 100th birthday on November 28 at a local country club.

She said she is excited to work her way around the room and chat with her many, many family members. And she’s been clear to her family about something else: “I’m going to get up and dance,” she said.

Do you have a story for Inspired Life? How to submit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *