Thelma Ernst, long time Exton resident, was 95 when she passed away on Friday, January 12, 2024 at Paoli Hospital, surrounded by loving family. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother (known variously as Grandmom, Grammy and GG), and friend to many. She was a bowler, golfer, Bingo enthusiast, lover of knickknacks and tchotchkes, and a volunteer of epic proportions. Her generous and loving heart just couldn't keep up with her mental energy and need to be busy. She had plans! She had things to do!
Marie Thelma Ernst was born on April 6, 1928 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Lloyd and Mildred Hughes. Her family lived in Alpharetta, Georgia and Wheeling, West Virginia before settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended Dormont High School, graduating in 1946. She was a faithful attendee at class reunions until the numbers dwindled, and they were no longer held.
Thelma met the true and lasting love of her life, Donald while they were both working at Donnelly Advertising Agency in Pittsburgh. They married in 1950, and Thelma started her life as a wife and mother of three. Donald joined Airco, Inc., an industrial gas and welding supply company, and they were both devoted to the company. For 40 years the company was entwined in the fabric of their lives, as many of their best friends worked for Airco.
Various business moves took them to New Jersey, back to Pittsburgh, back again to New Jersey and finally to Downingtown, Pennsylvania. With her children grown and her energy intact, she launched into her volunteer career, first with Welcome Wagon, and then with Paoli Hospital, where she was a fixture for 40 years (19,500 hours!). During her recent illness in the hospital, her second family lovingly cared for her.
In conjunction with her volunteer hours in the hospital, she also volunteered for many years at the Palm Tree, a consignment shop that supported the Paoli Hospital Foundation. Welcome Wagon led to her long bowling career at the Bowling Palace in Downingtown, where she made many dear friends. Many of that group also golfed together, which she enjoyed until last year, and they formed a book club. She was an avid reader her entire life, and particularly fond of mysteries. She was a regular at the Chester County Library until her final days.
She was a congregant of St. Philip and James Catholic Church in Exton. She had additional friends at the local Moose Lodge, where she played Bingo weekly, supplying one or two cakes each week. Thelma was famous far and wide for crocheting pot scrubbers, also known as scrubbies. She gave literally thousands away during her lifetime, and sold some too. She also enjoyed playing cards and playing the lottery.
Thelma is survived by her sister, Catherine Susan Mary (Kitty Sue) of Pittsburgh, and by her three children, Dan Ernst (Marie) of Poquoson, VA, Pamela Ianiero (Anthony) of Bloomsburg, PA and Jon Ernst (Claudia) of Andover, NJ. In addition, she is survived by seven grandchildren: Jennifer Natow (Jason) of Springfield, PA, Kristin Adams (Nicholas) of Midland, NC, Joseph Ianiero (Megan) of State College, PA, Edward Ernst (Terika) of Apex, NC, Douglas Ernst (Kellie) of Williamsburg, VA, Payton Ernst of Pittsburgh and Olivia Ernst of Andover, NJ. Her twelve great-grandchildren (GG's Dears) include Abby, Ryan and Allie Natow of Springfield, PA, Caroline and Sarah Adams of Midland, NC, Madison and Camryn Ianiero of State College, PA, Ada, Emmett and Lucy Ernst of Apex, NC and Jasper and Dawson Ernst of Williamsburg, VA. She is also survived by many nieces and a nephew, plus their offspring.
A mass and celebration of life will be held this spring in Exton. Thelma and Donald, members of the Greatest Generation, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date.
Contributions in Thelma’s memory may be made to the Paoli Hospital Foundation via this link: https://giving.mainlinehealth.org/ways-to-give/paoli-hospital-foundation.