In 1905 Theodore Roosevelt was president, World War I was nearly a decade away and Molly Schmidt was born in Stony Plain, Alberta.
A resident of Ritzville since 1945, Schmidt celebrated her 110th birthday Wednesday surrounded by family at the Rose Garden Estates. She wore a small tiara as she ate birthday cake and opened presents, including some new jewelry.
These days Schmidt is hard of hearing and sometimes has trouble remembering things that happened long before most of us were born. She attributes her longevity to healthy living, but her sense of humor may have had something to do with it as well.
“I didn’t drink,” she said. “I didn’t chew. I took care of my body.”
Her family said Schmidt was always a whirlwind, baking pies and making quilts for family members and others. She stayed active in her church and many community groups.
No stranger to hard work, Schmidt took a job as a cook in a nursing home when she was 65 and continued working there into her 70s. She didn’t give up driving until she was 99 and lived in her own apartment until 100.
Reaching 110, becoming a supercentenarian, is certainly a milestone. But Schmidt is not the oldest person in Washington. That honor goes to Emma Otis, of Poulsbo, who is 113.
Born Molly Krause, Schmidt was the oldest of 12 children. Many of her earliest memories are of raising her siblings.
“It was hell,” she said. “I could never go out and play. I always had to take care of a baby.”
Nikki Miller, one of Schmidt’s four granddaughters, said Schmidt has often told stories about her life. “She would have to stay home from school because her mom was always having a new baby,” Miller said. “She hated to miss school.”
Still, Schmidt was able to graduate the eighth grade – quite an accomplishment in those days. Her father, William Krause, had a brother in Chehalis, Washington, and the family moved there in 1923. Car problems along the way used up all their money, and the family had to stay in Ellensburg several weeks while Schmidt and one of her brothers went to work to earn money to finish the trip. She worked as a clerk in a five-and-dime store.
Not long after they arrived in Chehalis, Schmidt met George Stohr, her first husband – though she’s a little fuzzy on the details more than 80 years later. “I guess it was a dance,” she said. “My sister introduced me to him.”
Their first son, also named George, was born in 1928. A second son, Don, came along four years later. The family lived in Aberdeen, Washington, for a time, where Stohr worked at a mill.
The couple divorced and Schmidt moved back to Chehalis. In 1945, a friend told her that her brother, Albert Schmidt, needed a cook for harvest at his farm near Ritzville. The two hit it off and married later that year. Their only son, Charles, was born in 1946.
Schmidt said she had always wanted a daughter and thought about having more children but decided she would probably end up having another boy. Having all granddaughters helped make up for not having a daughter, she said.
“I was her little shadow,” Miller said. “That’s what everyone called me, little Molly.”
Schmidt’s husband Albert died of a heart attack in 1974. “He was a good little guy,” she said.
All of her siblings have died, even her youngest brother, born when she was 20. Several of her nieces and nephews have died as well, but she has 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren to keep her company.
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