Growing up in the 1920s and 30s in Philadelphia, Marguerite Koller was a lonely only child. “I had to go outside to find kids to play with,” she told The Washington Post. “I definitely wished I had siblings.”
In her teens, she applied to become a Catholic nun and was accepted at a convent. But life took her down another path. She married her late husband William Koller in 1942 and went on to have 11 children. They weren’t not sure how many children they wanted, but once they got started, “we just kept going”. Her life was never lonely again.
After World War II they started a funeral home business in the Philadelphia area which is still run by some of the Koller family.
One of their children, Chris Kohler, said that William and Marguerite were wonderful role models. “They had such a great relationship,” she said. They split household duties equally, including cooking and cleaning. “They always had to be together, always holding hands. I was hoping that I would find something like that for myself.”
The joy of a large family was passed on to the next generation. Most of the Koller brood went on to have families of five or more – there are 56 grandchildren. And to the generation after that. Greg Stokes, Marguerite’s grandson, has four girls. “Coming from a large family, I always wanted people around,” he told WaPo. “I think everybody in my family wanted to have multiple kids because of the energy and the excitement.”
The grand total: 11 children, 56 grandchildren, and 101 great-grandchildren. The whole clan, together with spouses, is nearly 250 – too big to fit around a table at Thanksgiving.
“No matter the size of the family, how big it grows, how far away we are, those lessons that my grandparents started 75 years ago are very much rooted in all of us,” said Chrissy Balster, 34, whose son was the 100th great-grandchild. Another great-grandchild arrived earlier this month, bringing the latest total to 101.
Marguerite’s 100th birthday on November 28 promises to be huuuge.