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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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‘Finding Joy in the Simplest of Moments’

Karen Knight
Eleanor Scott Bickel with her grandson, Andrew Grassi, as she gets ready to celebrate her 100th birthday July 26.

By Karen Knight

Family to celebrate Ellie Bickel’s special milestone

WILDWOOD CREST – When Eleanor “Ellie” Scott Bickel turns 100 on July 26, she will be celebrating a remarkable century, one that her family says has been highlighted by her calm and patient nature, which has been a constant source of comfort and inspiration.

Her grandson, Andrew Grassi, who calls Bickel “Grammy,” said his grandmother’s life has been “marked by incredible resilience and strength,” as she lost her mother at childbirth and her father at a young age, and spent a brief time in a foster home before being raised by her maternal grandparents.

Four generations of Bickel’s (middle, second row) family will gather to celebrate her 100th birthday. She has lived in Wildwood Crest for some 70 years, having owned businesses with her husband.

In 1994, tragedy struck when Grassi’s mother, Linda, died at age 46 from ovarian cancer, leaving his sister, Christa, then 13, and him, then 10, without a mother. The Love of Linda Cancer Fund Inc. was created in Eleanor Bickel’s daughter’s memory.

“My grandparents stepped in, providing us with the love, guidance and stability we desperately needed,” Grassi said. “My grandmother’s calm, loving and understated nature has been a constant source of comfort and inspiration.”

Now, Grassi is returning that love and care to his grandmother. After his grandfather died in 2014, “I moved back to Wildwood Crest to care for my grandmother, just as she cared for us,” he said. “This past decade has been a precious gift, allowing me to learn from her unwavering patience and selflessness.

“Although the journey has been challenging, I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this time with her and to reciprocate the love and care she has always shown us.

“As she approaches her 100th birthday, our love and compassion for her continue to grow.”

Bickel faces the challenges of dementia, but Grassi said she finds joy in life’s simple pleasures, such as savoring a daily scoop of vanilla ice cream or taking rides around the island she adores. “Her sharp wit and one-liners brighten our days, reminding us of her resilient spirit,” he said.

Bickel grew up in Philadelphia, and recalled that she graduated from Germantown High School. For a short time she worked as a receptionist, having met Jack, who became her husband, when she was 14 and he was 17. They were married for 68 years, after 10 years of dating.

Jack and Eleanor Bickel met in high school when he was 17 and she was 14.

“He really couldn’t dance,” she recalled, chuckling, “so I had to do my dancing before I was married.”

Her grandson said Bickel still has an “amazing sense of humor that keeps us laughing.”

Upon high school graduation, her husband served in the Army during World War II, and when he got out, a cousin, who owned a variety store in the area, offered him a job. That’s when he and Bickel got married, settling in Wildwood Crest after building their home there. It’s the home where she still lives with her grandson.

She and her husband opened several successful restaurants, including the coffee shop in what was then Jackson’s Drug Store, and the Atlantic Diner, where the Pink Cadillac Diner is located today in Wildwood.

She raised three daughters, and the family loved going to the beach every day. Her grandson said his grandmother has always had a “deep faith, and with her love of the Lord, they have been her guiding light through the darkest times.” She attended Bible study at her local church weekly.

“We were always entertaining, it seemed,” Bickel said. “There always seemed to be company in the house.” Besides her three daughters, she has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, with an eighth on the way.

Grassi said he recalls his grandfather always offering help to anyone who needed it. “My grandparents were always taking people in; if someone didn’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving, they came to my grandparents’. Our family always joked that Jack would give anyone the shirt off Ellie’s back. And she just went along with it and rolled with it. She was always so steady.”

Bickel loves going on rides, such as this one with granddaughter Christa (Grassi) Nocito.

Today, Bickel loves going for rides around the island that she loves. While she claims she doesn’t know her secret to longevity, she does think enjoying ice cream — vanilla, only, please — daily could be the answer.

Grassi said she doesn’t like to draw attention to herself, but he sees this birthday as a way to give back to his grandmother. “We’re going to have a party for family and friends,” he said.

“As Grammy reaches this remarkable milestone, I feel compelled to share her extraordinary story with the community she has called home for over seven decades. Her life is a testament to the power of love, resilience and finding joy in the simplest of moments.”

Contact the reporter, Karen Knight, at kknight@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Karen Knight is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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