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

Column: Sorority sisters carry support system through generations

My friend Chris joined Alpha Delta Pi at Washington State University in 1971. The sorority sisters from her era, now in their late 50s and early 60s, gather together at least twice a year. They have a built-in community of support and often share advice and stories that help them on their aging journey.

The women recently gathered on Whidbey Island, Wash., and, as always, Chris returned to Spokane with many wise and fun thoughts collected in discussions with the two dozen women there, including:

• If your grown child or grandchild is dating a young man or young woman you’re not fond of, don’t say much. Just wait it out. Often, the young person gets it, too. Breakups – and sighs of relief – follow.

• To not appear older than your years, especially in a society that isn’t crazy about older people, never grunt when you rise from a chair to a standing position, no matter how much you’d like to grunt due to sore backs or aching knees. Instead, arise from a sitting position gracefully “like Sophia Loren.”

• Investigate funny noises. One sorority sister kept hearing a squeaking sound in her house that stopped every time she paused to listen more closely. Turns out, her hip replacement had some problems. She was the one squeaking.

• A few of the sorority sisters are back in the dating game in their late 50s and 60s. They report that men of the same age often pose in biking shorts in their online dating profiles. Their message to men out there tempted to do the same: Don’t.

INSTANT FAMILY: The Veltrie extended family picnic, which I discussed in a recent column, was a great success at Audubon Park on July 28. Members of this huge, Italian family are all ancestors of Savario “Sam” and Josephine Veltrie, who came to the Inland Northwest from Grimaldi, Italy, in 1903 and had 15 children together.

The extended family reconnected with some long lost members this year.

One of them, Bill Richardson, wrote me this email: “I have been doing family history research for several years. One of my uncles married a Veltrie in 1939, but tragically both he and his wife died in a house fire in 1940. I was born in 1958 so I never met them and had only a tiny bit of information. Thanks to your article and a phone call to Shirley Gibson (granddaughter of Sam and Josephine), I was invited to the reunion and had a wonderful time catching up. The Veltrie family is a very kind and welcoming group of people. I plan on going to their reunions in the future.”

BUCKET LISTS: Recently, I joined the regulars who gather every summer at Riverside Memorial Park to lay flowers on the grave of Louis Davenport, who died July 28, 1951, and left behind Spokane’s grandest hotel.

Afterward, we talked about our bucket lists. I said I’ve always had a shallow dream to journey somewhere by yacht, though I don’t know anyone with a yacht, nor am I likely to run in yachting circles anytime soon.

Tom McArthur, historian and documentary filmmaker, told us the story of crewing on the Schooner Zodiak, built in 1924 as a private luxury yacht for the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune.

The vessel is now used for excursions through the Salish Sea, San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf Islands. Pretty reasonably priced excursions, too. The point here: Share your bucket lists, no matter how wild, shallow or impossible. Someone may know how to make your dreams reality.

SENIOR PLANET: The Senior Planet website concerns itself with aging issues in profound and also silly ways. I love the posters it places on Facebook. A recent favorite: “If I am ever on life support, unplug me. Then plug me back in. See if that works.”

ALSO ON FACEBOOK: A work colleague posted a tribute to his mom on her 81st birthday. It read: “Happy 81st birthday today to our mother who continues to relax, dish the daily snark and live the easy life. When once asked why there were no ovens in the kitchens in her retirement community, she replied, ‘So we don’t put our heads in them.’ ”


• “Songs of the Oregon Trail” – folksinger and storyteller Hank Cramer will share traditional folksongs of those who migrated via the Oregon Trail, Tuesday, 11 a.m., Otis Orchards Library, 22324 E. Wellesley Ave., Otis Orchards, (509) 893-8390.

• Artist books – make personalized artist books with artist Lindy Flynn, Friday, 9:30 a.m., Sandpoint Center for the Arts, 518 Oak St., Sandpoint, (208) 265-2787.

For more activities for boomers and seniors, go to