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For 104-year-old woman, love is the answer

Sat., Nov. 13, 2010, 8:14 p.m.

Bob Blomgren, 81, gives his wife, Ellen, a soft pat on the shoulder during a party to celebrate her 104th birthday, November 13, 2010 at the Royal Plaza Retirement Center in Spokane, Wash.   (Dan Pelle)
Bob Blomgren, 81, gives his wife, Ellen, a soft pat on the shoulder during a party to celebrate her 104th birthday, November 13, 2010 at the Royal Plaza Retirement Center in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle)

She was 103 when she married husband No. 4

In her 104 years, Ellen Blomgren never gave up on love.

“Never, never, never,” she said emphatically. “That’s what makes the world go ‘round.”

Even after losing her first three husbands, Ellen, who turns 104 today, knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with her 81-year-old groom, Robert “Bob” Blomgren. They married on Jan. 23.

“Because I married Bob, I hope I get to keep living for quite awhile,” Ellen said at her birthday party Saturday, where she donned a sparkling silver tiara.

And there’s a good chance the beaming bride will.

Her key to longevity? She doesn’t smoke. She doesn’t drink. And most importantly, she doesn’t worry.

“I just lived a normal life,” she said. “I didn’t worry. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

When life does put obstacles in her way, her motto is “take it to the Lord in prayer and leave it there.”

Now she has one more thing giving her endurance: Her love for Bob.

“When I met him he used to come fill my cup up with coffee,” she said. “You know, [he’d] just wait on me because I couldn’t do it myself. He’s just been good to me.”

No one can accuse her of marrying Bob, who is 23 years younger, just for his looks. Between coffee refills, he began reading to her.

“I fell in love with his voice because … I’m blind and I can’t see his face,” Ellen said. “And his voice sounds wonderful to me.”

The newlyweds met at the Royal Plaza Retirement Center in north Spokane where they live. They dated for about two years before they wed.

Before they dated, Ellen represented Royal Plaza in the Lilac Pageant for seniors, in which contestants from area retirement homes compete for a crown and a spot in the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade. Ellen didn’t win, but she did get to be escorted in the pageant by Bob, who had volunteered for the job.

He had lost his second wife just four months earlier and, heartbroken and grieving, didn’t think he’d be getting married again any time soon. But he thought highly of Ellen.

“I just admired her,” he said. “She was just a really nice lady.”

Eventually, his admiration grew into something more.

“We discovered we had a lot of common interests,” he said. “That’s why we came together, I think.”

Bob, who was born in Chewelah, is the retirement home handyman. Throughout his life he has been a carpenter and mason. He still practices carpentry and when he moved into the center, he rented a garage close by and had it rewired for all of his tools. His work can be seen throughout the facility. In fact, he built his and Ellen’s caskets.

The couple has 10 children from their previous marriages. They also have 30 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

Ellen, who was born in Copeland, Idaho, worked in a cookie factory before she first married. After that, she became a full-time housewife.

Her first husband died in his 30s. He was hit by a train after they had been married just eight years. Her second husband, who she was with for 27 years, died of natural causes, as did her third husband, who she was married to for 33 years.

Much like Ellen’s first husband, Bob’s first wife died young. She was 45 when she was killed on a boat that caught fire. His second wife lived at Royal Plaza with him before she died from Alzheimer’s disease.

Their losses weren’t for naught; eventually they found each other.

Ellen said of Bob, “He never gets cross with me.”

But Bob said he never had a reason to.

“My wife is a model wife,” he said. “She’s honest and she has a good heart and she’s true and faithful and everything that a man would want.

“We’re in total harmony.”

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