Family members participating in the 95th birthday party of Lena Chase (center) include grandchildren (front, left to right): Michelle Wiedeman; Julia Chase, 8; Benjamin Chase, 10; daughter-in-law (right front): Kate Wiedeman; and (rear, from left): son Richard Wiedeman; stepsons Gary Chase and Don Chase; matriarch Lena Chase; stepdaughter Carol Chase Scrafford; and son Dan Wiedeman.
An outspoken, strong willed but endearing woman — beloved by many in Lake George — was hailed Saturday Jan. 19 at her 95th birthday party.
Lena Chase, known as the unofficial “Mayor of Schuyler Heights,” celebrated the occasion surrounded by friends as she was toasted and roasted by area notables, politicians and family members.
State Sen. Betty Little attended the party, presenting Lena Chase with a senatorial proclamation saluting her longevity.
But Lake George Mayor Robert Blais went further. He mixed some good-natured ribbing along with some recollections.
“A lot of wonderful people go through the community over the years, and Lena is right there at the top,” he said.
Blais recalled how many decades ago, when he served as a village police officer, he stopped Lena and her husband in their car, because he had been driving erratically.
Lena’s husband denied any wrongdoing, he said. But Lena, Blais recalled, refuted his statements, proclaiming that he was not only weaving and speeding but driving after drinking as well.
Mayor Blais praised her strong-willed nature.
“I have to keep reminding Lena she’s only the mayor of Schuyler Heights,” he quipped.
Blais is aware of how outspoken and determined Lena Chase can be — He knows about how she showed up at a recent town board meeting, demanding that town board members reinstate the taxpayer-supported senior trips to visit the Saratoga Raceway & Casino.
More than 80 people attended the party, held at the Holiday Inn of Lake George. The Warren County Ramblers entertained at the event. Lena Chase danced with various people, including Pastor Thomas Berardi of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Her grandson Benjamin Chase, 10 read a poem in her honor, extolling her quirks and attributes.
Lena Chase was born in Bradford Pa. in 1918, and she moved to Maryland, NY in 1925 where her parents operated a 500-acre ranch. It was there, Lena recalled, that she learned she could accomplish anything that she set her mind to.
“”I had to learn and do everything, because I was the oldest of 11 children,” she said.
Lena worked as a bus driver, police officer, real estate agent, department store buyer and accountant, she said.
Lena's Son Richard Wiedeman recalled how she drove a contract school bus, not only driving her children and others to school, but to town to pick up groceries and other errands.
“We hit the floor so our friends wouldn’t see us,” he recalled. Wiedeman also reminisced about how Lena taught them about hard work and salesmanship — picking blueberries and selling them and other wares — like Cloverine salve — door-to-door.
“She had us out there selling all kinds of stuff,” he said.
He added that his mother possessed unmatched determination and persistence.
“It was her theory that there was nothing that couldn’t be done — she believed she and others could accomplish anything if you set your mind to it.”
In 1973, Lena moved to Lake George, and her husband Richard Chase was Superintendent of Schools for a while.
“I’ve built two houses here on Norman Street and rejuvenated another one,” she said.
Daughter-in-law Pamela Chase noted that even at age 95, Lena Chase still has her ways of getting things accomplished.
“Lena buys what she needs with a fresh-baked pie — whether it’s getting her grass cut or her driveway plowed,” Chase said. “She’s the queen of bartering.”
Dan Chase said he’s fully aware of how strong willed his mother is.
“She still tells us how to run our lives — It’s out of control!”