Several lifetimes of experience were on display Tuesday as three centenarians celebrated their recent birthdays at Sullivan Park Care Center.
The history the three have seen in their lives is staggering. They have lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. They have experienced the civil rights movement and observed the Vietnam War. They went from no phones or electricity to the age of computers.
Friends and families gathered to wish the trio many more happy years of life. Winnifred Campbell, 100, was a longtime cashier and gift wrapper at the old downtown Crescent Department Store. Alice Warren, 101, grew up in Moab Junction by Newman Lake, where her parents owned the O’Brien Store. George Cunliffe, at 104 the most senior of the bunch, recently moved to the area from California.
Campbell still has a hard time believing that she has reached the century mark, said her daughter, Sharon Johnson. “She said ‘I must have my dates wrong.’ ”
Campbell and her husband, Walter, came to Spokane in the 1950s. After they retired they often spent winters in Arizona. Her husband was killed in a car accident in 1987, but Campbell kept going. “Very tough, very independent,” Johnson said of her mother. “You don’t boss her around.”
Donna Haycock said her father George Cunliffe has always attributed his longevity to “clean living.” He never drank coffee, tea or alcohol and was a firm believer in avoiding debt. “He didn’t have a checking account until 10 years ago,” she said.
Cunliffe lived with Haycock until two months ago, when he fell and broke his ankle. He hopes to return home as soon as he’s mobile enough. “Another week here,” Cunliffe said. “I’ve been in bed for six weeks.”
Cunliffe had lived in Lancaster, Calif., since 1932. He worked for a steel fabrication company for many years before retiring in 1966. On the day he quit work he threw out the lunch pail he had carried each day and began crafting wooden clocks, Haycock said. His wife of 76 years, Letha, died six years ago.
Warren was featured in a Spokesman-Review story last year when she celebrated her 100th birthday. During that celebration she talked of the days when her parents had the only phone in the area at the O’Brien Store.
She and her husband, Percy, were the first couple to be married in the then-new St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on East Trent in 1930. They lived for many years in a home on Orchard Avenue. Her husband died in 1974, but Warren lived on her own and drove her own car until she was 94.
The three seemed to enjoy their time in the limelight and the certificates prepared for them. Accordion Joe provided music that had their guests clapping and singing along.
“It’s a nice party,” Campbell said.