EXIRA — Géraldine Kommes is 97 years old, lives at the Exira care center and loves to read. She enjoys reading so much that she recently finished book number 1,000, and she still goes.
How does she know she read 1,000? Geraldine keeps track of what she has read in a notebook, writing down the name of each book, and there are many Danielle Steel books in this list.
“I love Danielle Steel’s books the most,” she said.
Steel is a prolific writer. She has published over 185 books, including 141 novels, and also writes non-fiction books, as well as picture books and two series of children’s books.
Geraldine said she could look in her notebook to see how many of these books she had read, but she really likes Steel’s work, “She’s the best.”
Geraldine grew up in Massena and attended Corning Schools her freshman year, graduating from Cumberland High School in 1943.
She moved to the Exira area around 1945 and started teaching second grade, which she said she liked, and later worked in a grocery store. She was also a member of the Exira Red Hats, meeting for meals and fellowship.
She married Ambrose Kommes in 1947, in Cumberland. He was born in Exira and attended school there. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving until October 31, 1945, and received numerous honors for his service. He worked as a garage mechanic and was active in the community, as a member of the Exira Fire Department, American Legion, “E” Club and Exira Community Club. He died in 1998.
And although Geraldine read earlier in her life, she really started reading regularly when her husband, Ambrose, was in the hospital. “I was reading with him, when he was in the hospital,” she said.
She read with the children while teaching, read to her younger brothers, as well as to her daughter and son.
“I read a lot of books to children,” she says.
Coming from a large family, she also remembered helping and caring for her siblings – she had six brothers and two sisters.
Today, she still reads, a little every day, she says. When asked if she had a favorite Danielle Steel book, she said she loved them all, but only read them once – there were a lot to read.
Exira Public Library helps nurture her reading habits. They brought her books when she lived at home, and for two years she has lived in the health center.
“They were really good,” Geraldine said. She doesn’t have to send them lists of what she wants, they know what she likes to read and they bring it.