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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Centenarians recall life’s experience at Southside Community Center event

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 16, 2018

Gladys DeRuwe will celebrate her 101st birthday on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. She was honored during a centenarian luncheon at the Southside Community Center in Spokane on Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Gladys DeRuwe will celebrate her 101st birthday on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. She was honored during a centenarian luncheon at the Southside Community Center in Spokane on Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Three Spokane residents, all more than a century old, were honored at a luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the Southside Community Center.

Gladys DeRuwe, who will celebrate her 101st birthday Sunday, was accompanied by her niece, Marcia Smith. DeRuwe, who was born in North Dakota, moved to Spokane to be closer to family members.

DeRuwe and her late husband, Milan, donated more than $1.5 million to Union Gospel Mission to expand its vocational education program in 2015 to help men prepare for college and career fields.

“It’s due in large part to this woman,” Smith said. “She’s a very generous person.”

DeRuwe holds a master’s degree in music and taught for several years, in addition to performing as a soloist in the Concordia College choir.

Alfred Ron Hemming, 102, is a Navy veteran who served from 1934 to 1946. He joined the Navy as a recruit and rose through the ranks to be a lieutenant junior grade. While in the Navy, he was stationed aboard the USS. Saratoga and was one of the first instructors at the Naval Fleet Sonar School in Key West, Florida.

Hemming said his service in the Navy was a memorable moment in his life. “I enjoyed that,” he said.

Hemming married his late wife, Merle in 1940. The couple moved to Spokane in 1957 after he landed a job with the Federal Aviation Administration. He enjoyed building homes, and a residence he constructed in Nevada was the first to have a basement in the city.

Hemming’s son, Richard, said it was their first time attending the centenarian luncheon.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “My father enjoys talking to people, so it’s a good deal.”

Mary Pope Gaumond, 100, was born in Othello, Washington, and moved to Spokane when she was 7 years old. Her parents owned two restaurants, Tiger Lunch Café and Little Brick Café where she worked, and after high school she got a job at the Davenport Hotel.

She held several different positions throughout her life and is a founding member of the Southside Community Center.

During the luncheon, local historian Richard Sola described to attendees what Spokane was like 100 years ago.

When DeRuwe, Hemming and Pope were infants – World War I was raging and Prohibition would soon be in effect. In 1918, Spokane was one of the larger cities in the U.S. with a population of more than 130,000, he said.

“(Spokane) was a big city and a modern city,” he said. “It was connected to the world.”

Sola has participated in the luncheon for two years.

“Last year was great. It’s always nice to see people who have enjoyed their lives,” he said. “It’s a learning experience.”

Josh Kracht, Southside Senior Center program manager, said those who come seem to love the luncheon.

“People seem to really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s just our chance to celebrate people that have reached that centenarian milestone. I’m really pleased to have three of them join us.”

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