By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
UPPER SANDUSKY — Marie Frey’s favorite number may well be 86.
The rural Upper Sandusky woman turned 86 on June 26. That day she also got to see and hold her 86th great-grandchild for the first time.
The latest addition to the family is Blakely Grace Frey, who was born at 8:36 a.m. June 23 at Blanchard Valley Hospital to Kenneth and Holly Frey of Forest.
“I don’t know anything else besides family,” said Frey, who raised 15 children. “Faith is probably the only thing that gets you through.”
Frey was born in the Bascom area, the oldest of seven children. Her father and mother farmed.
“Back then it wasn’t that large (of a family), but now it is,” she said.
There was a time she considered becoming a nun.
“But she found out they couldn’t dance, so she didn’t want to be a nun. So she had 15 children. What a turn, right?” asked Frey’s daughter, Norma Rodriguez of Upper Sandusky.
Frey graduated in 1948 from New Riegel High School, then worked a year before getting married. She met her future husband, Gerald Frey, at a dance in Bascom on July 4.
“My mom called me and … asked if I wanted to go to the movies. They had free movies in Bascom. Sure, I didn’t care that much for movies, but just to get away because I didn’t have a car or anything,” she said.
Then she found out there was a dance, too.
“I asked if I could go to the dance instead. They said they didn’t care so they dropped me off, and that’s where he was,” said Frey.
A native of Kirby, Gerald Frey came from a family of 13. He was a World War II U.S. Navy veteran and was founder and owner/operator of Frey Roofing and Lumber, Kirby. He also was a lifetime Mifflin Township, Wyandot County grain and livestock farmer, an auctioneer and a pilot.
The couple married two years later on June 1, 1949, at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Alvada. The family grew to include 15 children — 10 girls and five boys.
“It was a piece of cake, wasn’t it, Mom?” asked daughter Roseanne Goodrich, prompting peals of laughter from those gathered around the family dining room table.
Frey said she always wanted a large family.
“I thought I’d like to have around 12,” she said.
All 15 children have stayed in the Wyandot County area and include Kathleen Doersam, Wharton, Larry Frey, Goodrich and Joanna Wright, all of Forest; Darrell Frey, Rodriguez, Phyllis Luikart, LaDonna Robert, Carolyn Thiel, Rodney Frey, Carla Gottfried and Rex Frey, all of Upper Sandusky; Judy Rowland of Marion; and Maraline Thiel and Harlan Frey, both of Carey.
The oldest, Doersam, just turned 66, while Wright, who is the “baby” of the family, will celebrate her 44th birthday in August.
Frey also has 68 grandchildren, including two sets of twins, and six step-grandchildren. And in addition to 86 biological great-grandchildren, which includes three sets of twins, she has nine step-great-grandchildren. Two more great-grandchildren are due this year.
Nationalities in the family through marriage include Korean, Hispanic, African, Filipino, Spanish, Iranian, African-American and Chinese. Occupations range from nurses and teachers to doctors, construction workers and lawyers.
The Freys raised their children in a five-bedroom home near Upper Sandusky, where Rodriguez now lives.
“It was big, but it wasn’t big enough,” Frey said.
She used a wringer washing machine for years, hanging the laundry out on a clothesline to dry.
“It broke so many times,” she recalled. “I did get an automatic washing machine and it was too small for the load of laundry I had to do.”
Rodriguez said she remembers carrying 13 baskets of the family’s laundry into the laundromat.
“And people would get mad because I took all the good washers,” she said.
Everyone had jobs, said Frey.
“I couldn’t have done it myself,” she said.
The couple moved in 1981 to a new house next door that Gerald Frey designed. He died in 2009 at the age of 83.
Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter holidays are still celebrated at Frey’s home. Everyone tries to attend either lunch or supper.
“One time at Christmas we counted 155 that were here at one time,” said Rodriguez.
Frey did some babysitting for her grandchildren, but says she doesn’t watch the children much anymore. She likes to dance and play cards, and she mows the grass. Frey attends Mass every day, either at Transfiguration of the Lord Catholic Church in Upper Sandusky or St. Mary Catholic Chapel in Kirby, and she prays daily for her family members.
“They’ll say, ‘pray for me Grandma,’ and I say, ‘I pray for you every day,'” she smiled.
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By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF