106 years old and going strong: Happy birthday, Doris Torgerson!

Story and photos by Katie Meyer
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

West Seattleite Doris Torgerson celebrated her 106th birthday today at The Kenney (WSB sponsor). As several staff members and other friends stopped by her room to deliver good wishes, cards, laughter and gentle hugs, she joked with her guests, thanked them and kept keen track of the latest updates from one and all.

The afternoon culminated in a birthday cake and the singing of Happy Birthday, seen in the photos below.

Her guests Reverend John Van Lierop (former chaplain at The Kenney for 17 years) and his son John, Jr. (music teacher) were among those visiting with Doris today. Lierop, Jr. noted she is “just the best person” and like family to him. When his mother was a resident at The Kenney, Doris provided him with daily updates between visits, and “helped a lot.”

Several birthday cards graced the room, along with small stuffed dogs which have been given to her over the years – a remembrance and tribute to the 27 years she worked with dogs, doing obedience-training classes (in Burien, downtown Seattle and at the YMCA in West Seattle), as well as grooming and showing them in dog shows.

Noting fondly that she owned “three white Borzoi, as well as scores of poodles,” Doris explained that the numerous trophies in her room were won at dog shows. The trophies sit atop an organ at the foot of the bed. While she no longer plays due to arthritis in her hands, she recalled having piano lessons starting when she was eight years old, from “a female descendant of Bach” who would rap Doris’s knuckles if she played incorrectly. She was taught classical, which she never really enjoyed – with a twinkle in her eye she stated that she switched to playing popular music as soon as she could.

When asked if she had advice to young people just starting out, she replied “Find a good job. Go to college and learn something good – that helps you find a good job and get going.”

Born January 16, 1907, in London, England, Doris came to America through Ellis Island with her mother and siblings, joining her father who was working in Great Falls, Montana. She attended school and college in Montana, then met and married her husband; they moved to Seattle, building a home on Alki where they lived for 70 years.

As an Alki resident, she loved the area – taking a daily 7 am walk with her dogs, enjoying the fresh air and gardening in her yard – ” lots of shrubs, tuberous begonias, dahlias, sweet peas, gladiola, roses, oh, and nasturtium – I would put together baskets of fresh flowers and bring them to people living at (Providence) Mt. Saint Vincent.” Her late husband worked for Weisfield Jewelers, doing watch making and repair until he retired. After health issues led Doris to sell her Alki home and move, she tried a couple different places, then decided she liked The Kenney best, and happily settled in.

Showing a lively interest and attention to people seems to be one key to longevity – Doris introduced several Kenney staff by name, asking about one person’s grandmother, asking another about the health of their pet after surgery, and teasing yet another for having had 11 cups of coffee during his last visit. Doris admitted she’s not a fan of coffee, having perhaps one cup in the morning, and said she doesn’t have a sweet tooth.

After being serenaded on her birthday, Doris blew out the candles and helped slice the cake. She encouraged everyone to partake, saying, “thank you – everyone have some, enjoy yourselves!”

27 Replies to "106 years old and going strong: Happy birthday, Doris Torgerson!"

  • Findlay January 16, 2013 (9:24 pm)

    Great story! Love The Kenney!

  • SarahScoot January 16, 2013 (9:30 pm)

    Happy birthday! Enjoy that Bakery Nouveau cake. ;-)

  • miws January 16, 2013 (9:32 pm)

    106 is quite an achievement!


    Happy Birthday, Doris!



  • Cait January 16, 2013 (9:39 pm)

    Doris is absolutely a ray of sunshine!

  • CEA January 16, 2013 (9:44 pm)

    Thank you for this story. May I live to be 106 and be able to share similar memories! Doris is part of a generation that put down roots and invested in our community, making West Seattle what it is today.

  • Savannah January 16, 2013 (9:55 pm)

    I just love stories like this…

    Happy Birthday Doris!

  • Cole January 16, 2013 (9:57 pm)

    Way to go, Ms. Doris Torgerson! What an amazing life you’ve had!

  • Dano January 16, 2013 (10:29 pm)

    This just made me smile!……. Happiest of birthdays!

  • ramona January 16, 2013 (10:40 pm)

    I love stories like this! Seniors are so fascinating and tell the best stories.
    Happy Birthday Doris! You are a beautiful lady.

    Also, excellent writing, Katie. Keep it comin’.

  • Jennifer January 16, 2013 (10:54 pm)

    Happy birthday, Doris! You are an inspiration!

  • Tyson January 16, 2013 (11:05 pm)

    I was born and raised in Great Falls, MT and have lived in West Seattle for 8 years, so it’s great to hear this story. Happy Birthday Doris!

  • transplantella January 16, 2013 (11:59 pm)

    Happy happiest birthday, Doris. You’re a treasure.

  • Brandon January 17, 2013 (8:06 am)

    Happy Bday!!!

  • SudsyMaggie January 17, 2013 (8:29 am)

    Happy Birthday, Doris! You have a beautiful smile!

  • Cclarue January 17, 2013 (8:32 am)

    Happy Birthday. I would love to hear the stories Doris could tell! You look fabulous Doris!

  • Marie M January 17, 2013 (8:42 am)

    It’s wonderful to have role models for aging gracefully. Happy birthday and thank you, Doris.

  • Sue B.Wallin January 17, 2013 (10:28 am)


    Happy Birthday!!!

    106 isn’t old…you are just 2 53 year olds!!!!!!

    Hope you are enjoying your day today with all of the people showing how much they love you :).

    Sue B.Wallin

  • Admiral resident January 17, 2013 (12:21 pm)

    A lovely lady that I had the great privilege of getting to know. Happy birthday Doris!

  • West Seattle since 1979 January 17, 2013 (1:53 pm)

    Happy birthday, Doris!


  • wseakell January 17, 2013 (2:18 pm)

    Doris, you have been an inspiration to get to know! I hope you had a wonderful birthday and cheers to another great year! <3

  • Ellen January 17, 2013 (3:55 pm)

    Happy Birthday Doris. 106, what a gal you are. Love you much. Ellen McBride Lowe social worker.

  • Scott January 17, 2013 (5:02 pm)

    Happy Birthday Doris! Great story, brought a smile to my face!

  • Greenpeace January 17, 2013 (5:35 pm)

    Great story about a great lady! Thanks for sharing!

  • Deblynn January 17, 2013 (6:49 pm)

    Oh my gosh! Doris, you are so beautiful! You made my day! I love stories about people who loved Alki as much as I do.
    Happy Birthday and thank you for helping me smile today! ( :

  • moji January 17, 2013 (8:11 pm)

    Glad you had such a wonderful birthday Doris! I miss your big smile and sharp wit. Keep it coming :)

  • MB January 18, 2013 (1:14 am)

    What a blessing! Would love to know her secret! Wishing you many more beautiful years Doris <3

  • WTF January 18, 2013 (12:19 pm)

    Too cute! Happy Birthday!!

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