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!”