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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

At 101, she gets to travel in style

Doris Morrison celebrates her 101st birthday a little early by taking her first ride in a limousine. 
 (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)

It was “Driving Miss Daisy,” with a Spokane flavor.

Thursday afternoon, a nattily dressed man driving a 1933 Packard Town Car arrived at Doris Morrison’s North Side home.

Morrison is turning 101 this month, and her granddaughter, Deb Smith, felt it was due time Grandma got her first ride in a limousine. So off she went, with Smith and Smith’s longtime companion and housemate, Rhea LaBuff.

Morrison, a wisp of a woman weighing no more than 90 pounds, has lived most of her life in Spokane. However, it had been years since she visited the Duncan Gardens and other botanical attractions at Manito Park. Smith thought it would be the perfect destination for a one-hour limo ride.

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” repeated Morrison, as she focused her sky-blue eyes on the duck pond.

Although her hearing has dropped off over time, Morrison is in good health. She lived alone until this spring. Home was the Morrison Ranch in the Spokane Valley, a family cattle ranch that has been in the family of her late husband, Miller Morrison, since 1892. On March 28, Morrison slipped on the dewy grass and broke her right arm while taking out the trash. Her only living son, Bud Morrison, found her lying on the front porch the next morning.

Because it became too difficult for Smith to run out to the ranch every day, Morrison moved in with Smith and LaBuff. Caring for elderly relatives was nothing new to Smith; she took care of her maternal grandparents until their deaths.

Morrison “couldn’t take care of herself anymore and we didn’t want her to go into a nursing home,” Smith said.

The summer was rough. Morrison developed a blood infection and wound up in the hospital. Hospice service was called. A recovery, which seemed miraculous to Morrison’s family, followed.

Although she is restricted to a wheelchair, Morrison is back to her old routine of devoting part of her day to her Lutheran faith, reading and keeping a journal, which the younger women now write for her. She does not have a medicine cabinet full of pills, never was a smoker and does not drink alcohol. During Thursday’s celebration, she was given a champagne flute filled with sparkling cider, but resisted it because she thought it was alcohol.

In her earlier days, Morrison worked as a school teacher in Montana and later sold classified advertisements for The Spokesman-Review.

When asked how long she and Miller were married, or when she worked at the newspaper, Morrison playfully answered, “I’m 101. It’s a long time ago. Just skip it.”

When the women kidded Morrison that they were going to go for Chinese food – knowing that she doesn’t care for it – Morrison’s response was, “Pooh.”

It is that kind of innocent humor that is so endearing to Smith, LaBuff and to her new acquaintances.

Although the celebration already started, Morrison’s actual birthday is Oct. 20. Last year, more than 100 people were invited to celebrate Morrison’s 100th birthday. Smith said a low-key evening will be planned for her grandma’s 101st.