Margaret Markens Cordes Hand, a woman with a great memory and even greater memories, died Wednesday (Jan. 26, 2000) in Bristol Home, 1500 Main St., at age 103.
"Until a month ago, she could recall and recite the poems of her favorite poets," her son, Alexander C. Cordes, said. "She wasn't ill long. Old age just caught up with her."
Cordes, a prominent trial lawyer in Buffalo until he retired about 10 years ago and moved to Longwood, Fla., said his mother, who was known as "Peg," would have been 104 years old on Feb. 25. She lived in three centuries.
Mrs. Hand was born in Buffalo and attended the former School 16 on Delaware Avenue and later Buffalo Seminary. She received her teaching certificate from the Buffalo Normal School, now Buffalo State College, when it was in the building currently occupied by Grover Cleveland High School at Porter Avenue and Fourteenth Street.
Cordes noted that Grover Cleveland, former mayor of Buffalo and sheriff of Erie County, was still president when his mother was born. She remembered the assassination of President William McKinley in Buffalo, because her older brother, the late Eugene Markens, came home crying, "the president's been shot, the president's been shot. . . ."
Mrs. Hand was the widow of Alexander J. Cordes, who died in 1960, and James S. Hand, who died in 1983.
"They (Cordes and Hand) were lifelong friends," her son recalled. "They were both Army combat pilots in France during World War I and survived a number of close calls."
Cordes said he believed his father and later his step-father were captains when the war was over.
Mrs. Hand, a popular resident among the 50 residents of Bristol Home, operated a knitting business known as "The Yarn Shop" in her home on Ashland Avenue for many years.
Several years after her first husband's death, she married Hand and moved to Columbia County, near Albany. She returned to Buffalo after Hand's death.
She was an active member at Westminster Presbyterian Church and, at the time of her death, was the oldest member of the congregation in both length of membership and age.
Mrs. Hand moved to Bristol House in 1994 and quickly became known there for her wit and her ability to recite poetry on request from her fellow residents, who are known as "the girls," or "the ladies."
In 1996, in response to a question at her birthday party about her longevity, she replied: "I've never been 100 before." She also confided that "it never entered my mind that I'd be anywhere near this age. I've been so lucky. I've had such a happy life. Two wonderful children, and two divine husbands."
She is also survived by a daughter, Margot C. Owen of Youngstown; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A private memorial service for members of her family will be held at a later date.