News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters centenarian to be honored

Reaching 100 years of age is something to be celebrated — and that is exactly what Doris Johnson, a resident of The Lodge senior living facility in Sisters, will be doing this October.

Two parties are planned for Doris, one for family and friends on Sunday, October 9, will see close to 50 people gathering to celebrate the centenarian. On Monday, October 10, her actual birthday, at 2 p.m., the residents and staff at The Lodge will gather to honor Doris as she turns 100.

A warm smile, bright eyes, and neatly coiffed silver hair belie the age of this native Oregonian with German ancestors. Doris was born in Oregon City, the youngest of four children. Doris’ three older brothers helped their father on the farm where they lived and raised beef cattle and lots of chickens. Doris’ chores centered around helping her mother with household duties.

She became gainfully employed at age six, picking strawberries in the summer, and saved up $3 to buy a used bicycle. Every Saturday she played with the girl who lived down the road.

After graduating from West Linn High School, Doris moved to Salem to take a job as a file clerk with the State Unemployment Office, where she worked for three years. She paid $25 a month, half of her monthly salary, for room and board in a boarding house.

Doris moved to Portland during World War II to work in the War Manpower Commission, which was housed in the State Unemployment Office located in the Pioneer Post Office building. She and her roommate shared an apartment in North Portland. They used to stop on the way home from work to enjoy a beer, about the extent of Doris’ imbibing over 100 years. Every Saturday night the girls would attend dances at McElroy’s Ballroom, where they both met soldiers who would become their husbands.

Bill Bell was with the 29th Engineers, stationed in Portland, and they were married February 5, 1944. With Doris’ father loaning them the down payment, they bought a house right away. They paid back the loan at $20 a month and had monthly mortgage payments of another $20. Having purchased the house for $5,000, they sold it for $8,000 and moved to their longtime home on Bonita Road in what was then Lake Grove.

In 1952, Bill and Doris bought the Knoll Printing Company in downtown Portland on SW Ankeny Street. Their daughters, Nancy and Suzy (Susan), attended Lake Oswego High School, with Nancy transferring to St. Mary’s in downtown Portland her sophomore year.

Life changed suddenly and unexpectedly for Doris when her husband, Bill, died of a heart attack at age 52 while they were bowling with their local Elks group. By that time, Nancy was married, and Suzy was attending Mt.?Hood Community College in Gresham. Suzy moved home to be with her mother and commuted from Lake Oswego to Gresham to attend classes.

Bill and Doris had two employees in their printing business, but they had both left prior to Bill’s death. When one of the former employees, Arnold Johnson, heard about Bill’s death, he contacted Doris to see how she was going to keep the business going.

Doris had still been taking orders for printing and farming them out to another printer down the street. Johnson offered to come down from Washington on the weekends and do the printing for her. After a year, he came back full-time. After working together for six years, Doris and Arnold were married and lived in Doris’ home on Bonita Road, with its large yard where Bill had loved to garden, and a swimming pool.

When the time came to retire, Arnold and Doris sold the business and the house, and moved to King City, where they enjoyed socializing with other retirees. Doris lost Arnold in 2005 and continued to live in King City for another 13 years, continuing to participate in social activities and card games.

Doris’ daughter, Suzy Ramsey, lives in Sisters, so Doris moved into The Lodge a month after it opened — one of the first residents.

“I love living here. And Suzy comes often to keep track of my bills and Medicare, and everything. She’s a whiz on the computer,” Doris said.

The outside door in Doris’ apartment made it possible for Suzy to visit during COVID-19. Daughter Nancy, who lives in Pasco, couldn’t come down for two years, but she will be here for the party.

Doris’ days are filled with activities organized by Alea Schliep, the life enrichment coordinator at The Lodge.

“Alea keeps us well-supplied with activities,” Doris said.

On her own, Doris enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and is an avid reader. Her daughter brought her a box of paperback books and she only has one left to read.

“I have had a rewarding life. I was able to keep the business and have an income to support myself,” Doris said of her 100 years.

Her philosophy of life is: “Keep active, take care of yourself and your health.”

She credits her long life to growing up on a farm, eating good food and no junk food. She has never been overweight, never smoked, and only had the occasional beer in her youth.

Doris summed it up: “I’ve had a good life. I’m blessed that way. I’ve gradually lost all the friends who were my age. They are all gone. If I hadn’t had children and family, it would be hard. There are a lot of Lake Oswego kids who live here now (friends of her daughters), who come to visit me.” Doris has her two daughters and two grandsons, two stepchildren, five step-grandchildren, and several step-great-grandchildren.

When asked her thoughts on the state of the world, she replied, “I don’t like the way the world is going. I keep hoping and praying we don’t get in a war.”


Reader Comments(0)