Nifty at 90: Franklin woman kept busy with family, friends, classmates

(The Nifty at 90 series in today’s newspaper spotlights Dawnice (McCandless) Umstead of Franklin. The article was submitted by her loved ones.)

Dawnice (McCandless) Umstead of Franklin recently turned 90 years old while in Florida.

Born March 29, 1934, in Rocky Grove, Dawnice was the youngest of 11 children, born to Albert (Scott) and Anna Mary Heilig-McCandless.

Dawnice attended Rocky Grove High School. While in high school, Dawnice was a majorette with the Rocky Grove Fireman’s Ladies Auxiliary, marching in the annual Rocky Grove fireman’s parade and other local parades. Upon graduating in 1951, she worked at CPT as a secretary for 2 1/2 years.

Dawnice was then introduced to the love of her life, Archie Umstead. Dawnice and Archie where married June 26, 1953. Archie, who had a degree from Clarion University, took a job in Altoona, teaching at Altoona High School.

Buying a home in the Juniata part of town, Dawnice and Archie raised four children, Craig, Mark, Karen and Scott. Before Scott came along, Archie, who was also working at the local youth detention center, brought home three young teenagers to live with them: George Stephens, Bob Tully and Frannie Gebhart, later officially adopting George as a family member.

During those days, the dining room table always seemed full of family and friends. Dawnice was notorious for putting together a great meal on very short notice.

Over the years, the couple continued to take in teenagers into their home until the teens finished high school. In later years, the couple also rented out rooms to college students who where attending Penn State’s Altoona campus.

Along with raising all these children, Dawnice was a member of Otterbein United Methodist, volunteering with the Ladies Auxiliary to serve meals. She was a member of the Altoona Lioness, judge of elections in Juniata, and volunteered at Mercy Hospital.

As her kids were growing up, to earn some extra money, Dawnice took a job as a representative for the Dutchmaid Clothing company, attending house parties to sell the clothing.

She loved playing cards with some of her neighbors who met monthly.

After Archie retired as a teacher, they decided it was time to travel. They bought a used camper, and along with Dawnice’s sister, Wanda and husband, Herb (Bark) Barker, the four traveled the country.

Eventually, they “exchanged” the camper for a trailer home in Daytona Beach, Fla. Wanda and Bark, plus another of Dawnice’s sisters, Ruth and husband Dan Proper, all bought trailers in the same neighborhood.

For years, they all made the trip south in the fall to escape the cold, snowy Franklin winters.

After 52 years of marriage, Archie passed away on Oct. 28, 2004 at the age of 79. It was then that Dawnice decided it was time to move “home” to Franklin to be near her sisters Wanda and Ruth. This was just the next chapter in Dawnice’s busy life.

Unfortunately, Wanda passed in 2012 and Ruth in 2016, but thanks to her son, Mark, who lives in Oil City, Dawnice had some local family.

Oh, yeah, she also had “umpteen” nieces, nephews, cousins and other family members to check in on her. Dawnice is kept busy with family reunions, group get togethers with old classmates and friends, and enjoys attending concerts in the park.

On May 4, 2024, the family surprised Dawnice with a 90th birthday party at Franklin Alliance Church with more than 80 family members and friends in attendance.

(The newspaper wants to hear your stories about men and women who are 90 for our Nifty at 90 series. Share insights, some laughs, a lesson or two about the special person in your life whose birthday cake will be overwhelmed with 90 candles. We ask the written submissions include a color photograph and be submitted a week in advance. They can be emailed to: