Hard work, a love for people and a zest for life are the keys to living to centenarian status, said Milla Slettedahl.
“I’m making history,” the Enumclaw Evergreen Rehabilitation Center resident said after her 100th birthday.
She celebrated the event Nov. 12 in Enumclaw’s Danish Hall, the same place she and her late husband Elmer celebrated their marriage in 1934.
Slettedahl was born Nov. 12, 1911, “on Roosevelt Avenue,” and she’s called Enumclaw home since.
She married Elmer and the couple built a home on Blake Street.
“I knew him since he was 18 and I was 14,” she said of her husband. It was her father, who owned a shoe store in town, who introduced them.
When Elmer died in 1998, she continued to live in their home, mowing and edging the lawn, until a heart attack and slight stroke two years ago sent her into the nursing home.
“She lived on Blake Street for 70 years,” daughter Judy Wales said.
Slettedahl was never afraid of hard work, and that, she said, is the secret to her longevity.
“I’ve always worked, since I was 14 years old,” she said.
Splitting wood, helping the roofers, plowing, gardening, mowing, baking cookies – it all kept her moving.
“I’m a tough old Norwegian,” she smiles.
She was always quick to lend a hand.
“That’s the type I am, I help people,” she said.
Slettedahl enjoys sharing stories about her four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren.
A one-time regular at the senior center, she said after all those years of living alone, she welcomed being around the residents at the nursing home, where for the past month she’s taken on star status.
Her eyesight makes it hard for her to read the birthday cards from well-wishers, but she’s found someone to read them to her and she’s been enjoying the hugs and kisses from visitors, she said.
In her 100 years, Slettedahl has seen a number of changes in Enumclaw, the most pronounced for her is the downtown area with its constantly changing store fronts. She remembers Rochdale’s department store and when Safeway was on Cole Street, before it moved out of town.
“I plan to stay in Enumclaw the rest of her life,” she said.
Her daughter anticipates that will be a while.
“People there keep telling me to be ready for the 105th. She’s got a good attitude. She’s always had,” Wales said.
“I enjoy life,” Slettedahl said.