Eileen Mahoney sat in her wheelchair at the Backwoods Inn surrounded by generations of the family she helped create on Saturday.
The special occasion? Her 100th birthday. Why the Backwoods Inn? It was her favorite place to go with her husband, who died in 2020.
Eileen was born on Sept. 21, 1923, in Ottoville, Ohio, into the life of being a farmer’s daughter.
Her father’s 110-acre farm grew a variety of crops, took care of two mules named Jack and Jill and raised hogs and chickens amid the Depression era.
Daniel Mahoney, Eileen’s son who spoke on her behalf, said his mother shared very fond memories of growing up on the farm.
Memories such as finding a kitty and dressing it up in doll clothes or one snowy winter where the watermelons were stolen after being moved inside the barn to prevent frost.
However, war was upon her life.
“All her young years, formative adult years were influenced by the war,” said Daniel.
Day by day Eileen saw her male classmates disappear to enlistments for World War II.
In 1941 Eileen had finally graduated along with what was left of her class.
“Thirty-three,” answered Eileen as to how big her graduating class was.
After graduating high school in 1941, she went on to attend business college in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to learn and practice carbon tech typing.
Maintaining the farm became difficult at this time, so her family packed their bags and moved to Van Nuys in 1946.
The house trailer they lived in was very close to a wide and busy street in Van Nuys, which almost made for a tragic tale.
“Some toddler had come out of the trailer park into the street and she had to run out and rescue that kid from the trolley car, (from being) run over,” said Daniel.
The move to California led her to meet her match, Thomas Mahoney, at the St. Elizabeth Church. The two were engaged in 1950 and later married in December of that year. They were the first couple to be married after the church’s new building was dedicated.
“She made her own wedding gown, she made her bridesmaid dresses, she made the flower girl dresses for her wedding,” said Daniel.
Thomas worked as a milk man while Eileen ironed any clothes that were dropped off for $1 per hour.
The two went on to have five kids, four daughters and one son.
“She is a very giving mother who always put herself last,” said Darlene Sandvig, one of Eileen’s daughters.
Jane Brager described her mom as being extremely skilled in everything a home economics class would teach someone – cooking, cleaning, baking and sewing.
All of her kids said Eileen raised them while simultaneously sewing and making their pajamas and clothes. This memory brought a smile to all of their faces as they reflected.
Each morning breakfast was made, lunch was packed and sometimes even a morning rack of cookies graced the kitchen counter.
“She is the sweetest woman on the planet,” said Jane Brager, one of her daughters.
Eileen was a mom to her own children and the neighborhood as well.
“She was like a neighborhood mom for the kids, baking cookies and brownies,” said Daniel.
“All my friends loved and still love my mom,” said Sandvig. “She had an impact on so many people.”
Her children grew up and the majority moved to Santa Clarita to grow the family.
“I learned that family is really important,” said Mary Anne DeFusco, one of her daughters.
In Santa Clarita, Eileen and Thomas found one of their spots – the Backwoods Inn on Sierra Highway. It quickly became their favorite for date and family nights.
As the dining room filled with family and friends singing the “happy birthday” song as a lit “100” candle flickered in front of Eileen, a new memory was made: A joyous celebration to mark the first time Eileen has returned to the Backwoods Inn since 2020.