As patrons roamed the inside of Southside Senior and Community Center’s dining room, they were in celebration: Several Spokane residents had reached their 100th birthday, or exceeded it, and they were honored in one of the center’s first post-pandemic in-person events.
The secret to living to 100 was “good food and good whiskey,” said Stan Bennett. Bennett has exceeded it by one year as of Sept. 8.
Breann Beggs, SpokaneCity Council president, presented signed certificates to four seniors who celebrated their centenarian birthdays and “have advanced further in life than most.”
Celebrating along with Bennett were Larry Morse, June Syverson and Mary Jensen.
“This is just a delight, and what a surprise,” Syverson said.
Syverson, who turned 100 on Feb. 12, said her paternal grandfather lived to 107. She said she hoped to reach that age and that she was grateful to the center for the presentation.
Morse said he was surprised to hear of the luncheon partly dedicated to him. He turned 101 only a few weeks ago on Sept. 6.
Though he was born in Montana, Morse’s family moved to Spokane when he was about 13. He earned an accounting degree from Washington State University, but was soon drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in World War II.
For two years, Morse traveled across Europe and said he fought directly against Nazi soldiers, until the end of the Western Front of the war in 1945. His time in the conflict earned him a Purple Heart.
When he came back, Morse said his perspective was changed, and he wanted to settle down. He married his college sweetheart, and they settled in Spokane, where they raised their four children.
Morse said the secret to his longevity is being constantly in motion.
“You’ve got to take care of your body, none of this sitting around all the time,” Morse said.
Beggs said his own grandmother lived to 107.
“And until two weeks before, she was taking her walks and making homemade bread,” Beggs said.
The luncheon was organized and run by volunteers, said Julia Payne, the community center’s program and rentals coordinator. The so-named Teal Ladies milled about in their bright blue smocks during the lunch, arranging silverware and stocking the tables with waters.
“We do anything the center needs from us in that moment,” said volunteer Lou Connolly.
To celebrate the centenarians who were born during the 1920s, a meal themed after “The Great Gatsby” started with navy bean soup and Caesar salad, followed by glazed ham and carrots with honey cornbread.
The luncheon was funded mostly from two sponsors present at the event, Payne said.
One sponsor was Robin Walter, a Medicare insurance broker who serves on the community center board. She said she pooled her money with her business partner to help become a sponsor.
“I donate my time, and I try to donate money whenever I can, so this was a good opportunity,” she said.
Guy Parkin, a real estate agent with Professional Realty Services, also sponsored the event. He said he chose to sponsor a centenarian in particular because of its connection to everyone in the community.
“None of us are getting any younger, and these people have paid their dues, and we want to celebrate that,” Parkin said.
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