Lifestyle

Simple living is Federal Way centenarian's secret

Helen Van Winkle, a resident of Foundation House in Federal Way, celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 28, 2011.  - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Helen Van Winkle, a resident of Foundation House in Federal Way, celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 28, 2011.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Helen Van Winkle, a resident of Foundation House in Federal Way, will celebrate her 100th birthday today. What’s her secret to longevity?

“Simple living,” said Van Winkle, who apparently has longevity in her genes. Her brother is 96, and their mother lived until age 97. “My mother cooked for eight kids. You know it was simple.”

She and her husband, Robert, were married 64 years before he passed away in 1996. He worked as a telephone company engineer in a career that took the couple from Tacoma to Aberdeen to Seattle and more. While in Tacoma, she attended a business college and worked as a secretary at a courthouse.

Of all the history Van Winkle has seen in her lifetime, the world’s first non-stop transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 is one of her favorite events. The subsequent kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh’s son in 1932 was especially disturbing for parents, she said.

She was born Oct. 28, 1911, on Whidbey Island and grew up all over British Columbia in Canada.

A significant moment in Van Winkle’s life involved moving from Canada to Tacoma. It was quite a culture shock to come from a homestead to the city, she said.

“I’d never seen fog before,” she said. “I was lost completely.”

After suffering a stroke in 2000 while living in Grays Harbor County, she moved to Foundation House in Federal Way. She has resided at the local assisted living facility for 11 years.

Van Winkle said she has two children, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Family from Sacramento, Calif., British Columbia and Renton gathered with Van Winkle on Friday to celebrate her milestone birthday.

 

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