80 TO 100: Forsberg: Maintaining the waterfront

Barbara Forsberg has found herself at a crossroads. Her home is a beautiful two-story on the waterfront in the Tapps Island neighborhood, where she and her husband Ralph moved in 1997.

By Daniel Nash | The Courier-Herald

Barbara Forsberg has found herself at a crossroads. Her home is a beautiful two-story on the waterfront in the Tapps Island neighborhood, where she and her husband Ralph moved in 1997. Her husband died in 2004 and as time goes on, Forsberg finds it harder to maintain the property, which requires more maintenance than a land-locked home, by herself.

She may rent the bottom floor out to a tenant for some extra help, but she is loathe to consider the option of selling.

“The thing with waterfront property is that they’re not making it anymore,” Forsberg, 81, said. “My grandson loves coming down and going out on the water in the boat. I think he would like to have the house someday.”

She described her life as nice and comfortable. She was born an only child just before the onset of the Great Depression. The most prominent memory of hardship she had came secondhand from her mother, when she told Forsberg about sewing sackcloth into underclothes for her daughter.

She is a lifetime resident of Washington, having spent her childhood on Orcas Island and Finn Hill. When she was 7 years old, she took her first job picking berries, earning enough money to buy a little red wagon.

In her senior year of high school, the secretary registrar of her school fell ill, and the skills Forsberg gained from secretarial courses landed her a position as a replacement for the last three months of school.

“It was good work,” she said. “And it didn’t disrupt my academics because I think I only had to complete a course in Latin to finish my degree.”

She married her sweetheart, Ralph, when he was discharged from military service in 1947. They had two children, Vick and Debbie.

Once her children began school, she became a real estate agent, winning some awards for her work, she said.

The couple moved to Puyallup, then built a two-story house in Milton to be close to her mother before finally moving to their current house on Tapps Island.

Forsberg noted that in the 12 years since moving to Lake Tapps, the area has exploded in terms of population and the subsequent growth in housing and traffic. In some ways, it made life easier, such as the opening of grocery stores closer to home, she said. Before the growth in local businesses, she would go to Puyallup and Enumclaw to shop.

At her house, a security fence surrounds a large driveway and yard with a flower garden in the corner. Gardening is one of Forsberg’s favorite hobbies. She raises gladiolas, fuschias, two hanging granny-socks of impatients and berries that remind her of her childhood in Finn Hill.

“I think just being outside in the fresh air makes gardening a nice activity,” she said. “And it’s exercise in a way.”

Frequently, Forsberg’s German shepherd Maggie will join her outside, sniffing, exploring and bounding happily at the site of passersby. Maggie was adopted by Forsberg through an animal shelter, from a woman who moved to Florida and couldn’t find a residence that would allow dogs.

The previous owner’s loss was Forsberg’s gain. Maggie is the latest in a long line of German shepherds owned by Forsberg and her family. She has raised several litters over the past 50 years, and a few were shown in Puyallup-area dog shows in the late 1960s. One dog was sold to the Air Force for her exceptional ability to work in the presence of gunfire and other loud noises.

Her preference for the breed began when she and her husband replaced their first dog.

“We had a little cocker spaniel for a few years, and one day it wandered out to the side of the road and was hit by a car,” she said. “This was around 1958, and my husband and I decided that if we got another lap dog, we would be comparing spaniels to spaniels – we would be expecting the new dog to be like our old one. So we decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and get a big dog.”

Forsberg enjoys taking Maggie to obedience classes, she said.

“Maggie loves to play ball,” she said. “But she doesn’t play fair! Most of the time she won’t drop the ball and she’ll just run around the yard with it in her mouth. But, sometimes I can trick her by playing with two balls: she’ll drop the old one to go after the new toy.”

Forsberg loves to go out, visit friends and play cards at the Bonney Lake Senior Center when she has time. But on the days when work needs to be done on the waterfront house and Forsberg is forced to stay in, Maggie provides exceptional companionship and makes her feel safe.

“When she’s standing outside or in the doorway, she looks like she needs respect,” Forsberg said. “I think that’s what I like most about her.”

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