Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cashmere woman celebrates 104th birthday

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WENATCHEE – Prestige Senior Living at Colonial Vista community’s oldest resident, Mabel Hoffman, celebrated turning 104 with a garden tea party, surrounded by 60 of her friends and family.

At 104, Hoffman still has a gregarious laugh, a sharp memory, and loves to socialize. Every Sunday, she walks herself across the street to attend church.

“They say I don’t look my age, well what am I supposed to look like?” said Hoffman.

Hoffman says she didn’t do anything specific to get to 104. She suspects eating vegetables and staying active has helped, but she credits her enjoyment of life.

“At every age, there’s something good,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman spent almost her entire life in Cashmere, the exception of a couple years in Seattle during WWII, and moving to Prestige Senior Living at Colonial Vista when she was 96 and a half. She was the oldest of nine kids born to Norwegian parents.

Limited by career opportunity and the threat of a looming war, her father moved to Canada, then the U.S. as a young man. Her mother moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was 16 years old. The two had each visited Norway, and met on a ship returning to the U.S.

The couple raised their kids on an orchard in Cashmere, where Hoffman got into all sorts of trouble as a young child. She remembers escaping the front yard and walking down a busy logging road with her brother at three years old, finding herself on the roof at four, and even getting into lead and arsenic used on the orchards. 

“Mom never worried about us,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman’s family ran into challenges in her early life, such as getting scarlet fever and losing her younger sister to it. She recalls not being able to attend the funeral because her family was quarantined. When the Depression hit, her family lost their orchard, and had to move into a barn with four rooms, and no electricity, plumbing, or water. 

To survive, her mother raised rabbits for meat, grew a large garden, handspun sweaters, and baked bread from scratch. In 1939, Hoffman said her father passed away from cancer. Another immigrant, who her father had helped in the past, returned the favor to his mother, gifting her $300 to purchase a 7.5 acre orchard.

Despite the challenges, Hoffman looks back on her childhood fondly. She and her friends walked everywhere as kids, spending their time down by the river, or up at Flower Divide. They’d bob for apples and eat donuts off a string, make up plays and perform for their friends, and collect bottles for money to buy popcorn and a movie ticket.

“We didn’t have toys, but we had imaginations,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman graduated high school in 1938, and married her husband, who lived next door to the orchard, in 1941. The two lived in Seattle for a couple of years, while her husband worked in the shipyard. Hoffman was a licensed practical nurse. 

She heard the U.S. had declared war in a news theater, and remembers the streets full of soldiers on their way back to base. The next day, she said, all of her Japanese neighbors were gone.

Hoffman and her husband eventually moved back to Cashmere and bought an apple and pear orchard up Yaksum Canyon, where they raised their four children. Hoffman would enjoy baking, sewing, and gardening. She and the kids would visit the library so often that the librarian called them the “readingest” family she knew.

“I really enjoyed raising kids and grandkids,” said Hoffman. 

Hoffman’s husband died in 1987. In her later years, she got her driver’s license at the age of sixty, and visited Norway three times. Her last trip was at 80 years old. She has eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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