HOWLAND - Katherine Riffle is one busy Chic.
Riffle, 84, nicknamed "Chic," is a volunteer at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital, Trumbull Mobile Meals and Blessed Sacrament Church.
She said the name came about because when she was young, her mother called her "Chicken Little." She might indeed be little, but she's not running from anything.
Katherine “Chic” Riffle of Howland wheels Charles Winterberger of Greenville, Pa., back to his room Monday at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital.
Born in Pennsylvania, Riffle moved to the Valley in 1950. She and her husband had seven children, and she remembers living in just "a shell of a place" in Warren.
"When my husband got hurt, he got $49 a week," she recalled Tuesday in her Howland home.
She said they never got welfare, always drove beat-up old cars and lived frugally.
"St. Vincent de Paul helped us out, so I love to give back that way," she said.
She now volunteers at the soup kitchen there.
Riffle became a widow when her youngest sons were just 14 and 10. The seven children are living in seven different places, just one in Ohio - a daughter who owns a restaurant in Kent.
She said the youngest, who lives in Thailand, has written a song about a family of nine sharing one bathroom. Another son plays harmonica, teaches from a studio in Boston and has written a book on the subject. Yet another is involved in the Boys and Girls Club in Missouri. Then there are three more daughters.
After her husband passed, Riffle got a job at Packard on the conveyor, where she said was always "the oldest person with the least seniority."
Her second husband was the one who got her involved at Hillside, where he volunteered wheeling patients to and from therapy. At the time, Mobile Meals' operated from there as well. When Riffle retired, she began packing meals, something she's been doing for 22 years.
For the past six years or so, she's been wheeling patients, as well. Her Mondays don't look like a retired person's but more like a full-timer's. She goes to Mobile Meals from about 8 to 11 a.m., then heads to Hillside to eat lunch and help out there until 4 p.m.
"It's inspiring. It's amazing to see people, especially stroke victims," she said. "They're almost in a coma, then a few weeks later they're walking."
Riffle was again widowed. She currently has a partner, Ken, who at 88 still has a woodworking shop. An attractive entertainment center in Riffle's home is testament to his skill. He's also working on a bookshelf.
Riffle likes to travel, and having sons and daughters all over gives her the opportunity. She even went to Thailand to see her son get married.
When she's not traveling, she helps serves as a Eucharistic minister at morning Mass and helps with funerals when she can. Once in a while, she also serves communion at a nursing home.
The Rev. Thomas Eisweirth at Blessed Sacrament said Riffle's been a wonderful support system for him since he arrived in September. He said she comes to daily Mass regularly.
"She's just been very welcoming to me," he said, adding that she's willing to work with him in any way that he asks.
"She's a real inspiration," he said, describing her as always upbeat. "She seems to have a good spirit."
Riffle had a set of twins and also was a twin. Her brother died when they were 47.
"He told me how lucky I was to have such a big family, and I was," she said.
She encourages others to get involved.
"You don't get bored, you don't feel sorry for yourself, and it's better to be busy and productive," she said.