Nancy Tharan shows a map
of Downtown Knox, Pa.
BEAVER TOWNSHIP (EYT) - Nancy Tharan has seen a lot in her 90 years and met each challenge with confidence.
Asked how she was able to reach her 90th birthday, Nancy said she wasn’t sure how she got here. The simple reason is that she has been very, very busy throughout her life, from twirling a baton to raising three sons, reading brail, living in a log house, starting college later in life, and teaching for many years.
Born and raised in Knox, the former Nancy Kribbs has roots that run deep in Clarion County. Her great-great-grandfather, George Kribbs, was a Venango County Commissioner who helped create Clarion County in 1839. Clarion County was formed from segments of Venango and Armstrong counties. It was named for the Clarion River and is the 54th county to be established in the state of Pennsylvania. In its early days, Clarion County grew in population due to the growth of the iron, lumber, and oil industries. Kribbs was also appointed Captain in the Richland Rifle Company of the Clarion County Militia,
Her great-grandfather, Phillip Frederick Kribbs, owned many buildings in Clarion Borough in the late 1800s, including the large building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street that houses Bob’s Subs and other businesses. P.F. Kribbs also built a similar building in Knox now owned by Bill Henry.
Nancy’s brother Ben served as the Clarion State Teachers College head coach of football, basketball, and baseball teams from 1949 to 1952. He was hired as the head basketball coach at Bucknell University in 1952 and held that job for 10 years until 1962 when he became Bucknell’s athletic director.
But enough about them.
Nancy was born and raised in Knox and she has obviously seen a lot of changes over the years. “When I think about Main Street of Knox, all the stores that used to be there. There were like six or seven grocery stores right on Main Street. We used to know who lived in every house.
“I wonder who lives in that house, you know? So many of them have deteriorated over the years. People don’t seem to take care of their homes the way they used to, but there are still nice homes in Knox.”
“Changes were coming to the small towns. I think we should go back to those small towns. The kids could play all over town. They could play and you didn’t have to worry about them all that much. There was always a ball game going on out here in the front field and could ride your bike anywhere.”
Nancy was also busy in her younger years, twirling the baton and playing the accordion.
“I marched with different bands and entertained at clubs and church events with the accordion. I belonged to the American Legion Band in Oil City. We went to the Legion Conventions. I marched in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City when I was 15.
“My only ‘movie’ career was they asked to go to the Madison Hotel in New York and give a concert There were two other majorettes beside myself and, we gave a baton routine there. We were told it was filmed and would be shown the next day at the RKO in the RKO Theater.
A graduate of White Memorial School: Nancy graduated from White Memorial School in 1950. After that, she got married to Bill Tharan. They had three sons – Mike, Randy, and Ted — and they all still live in the area. She has eight grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and four step-great-grandchildren.
They bought some property in Beaver Township in 1962 and first lived in an old log house that was on the property. The young family lived there for four years before they built their existing home on the property.
“Living in a log house was an experience with walls that were 18 inches thick. The family tried to give the log house to the historical society and met with people from the college and the Historical Society, but there just wasn’t money available to do it back then in 1968.
“We finally had to tear it down.”
All of her sons attended Keystone schools. After the boys started elementary school, she decided to enroll at Clarion State Teachers College.
There was an opening at Keystone and started there in 1966, teaching first grade in Shippenville until the new elementary was built in 1972.
She taught for 27 years and retired in 1993.
Did the kids change over the years?
‘I noticed parents were changing more than the children with their attitudes. I felt first graders were honest and innocent. They were full of life. They really didn’t have problems.
“I enjoyed the teaching. Keystone School District was formed in 1957 and that’s when they brought on all the people together. In 1972, the three elementary schools all came to Knox., closing them in Shippenville, Salem, and Ashland.
“When they opened the new school in Knox, we had almost six sections of every grade level. Even when I was still there, classes started shrinking.
Did they ever do anything that really surprised you?
“There were different children with different abilities. I had a student in a wheelchair. I had a blind student, and I had a hearing-impaired student and had to wear a microphone type around my neck. And they were special children.
a“I learned braille when I had the blind student. The person I worked with at the school got me the Braille machine. And I did learn how to do braille. The night before I would do her assignments, we had big cards like an oak tag that would fit in the machine, and I would do her lessons for the next day in Braille.
“It was experiences like that, that were rewarding.
an “They were at that age where they didn’t have the worries that they might have today. I remember one little girl saying to me when we were going to have open house, that her parents were getting a divorce and she didn’t know if her dad can come. That was kind of starting back then.”
Fast forward to 2022
Nancy continues to stay busy and goes out every day. She still drives her own car and mows her own yard with a 30-year-old Craftsman riding mower.
About two years ago she was fed up with her television and decided to get rid of it. Just as reading was her favorite subject to teach, she remains an avid reader and goes to the Knox library every week and selects about five books to take home.
She does listen to the Radio and her two favorite stations are KDKA and WWCH. She also has tapes and CDs she can listen to, but all of the eight tracks are parked in the garage. She’s also a frequent visitor to the Knox Senior Center and has volunteered at the Clarion County Historical Society and the Knox Public Library. She is also a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Of course, she has no computer or email.
However, she continues to research the rich history of her family and writes that history by hand as a record for future generations.
“I enjoy it all. I can go outside and do my little gardening out here and work. I read all kinds of books: historical fiction, detective stories, westerns, and paperback to pass the time.”
Rest assured; she always has something to keep her occupied.