Peggy Ewanoski speaks at the July 22 birthday party celebration. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Peggy Ewanoski speaks at the July 22 birthday party celebration. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Centenarian celebration: 3 Federal Way residents celebrate 100th birthdays

Village Green Retirement Campus hosted the party of the century on July 22, celebrating the 100th birthdays of three residents — Peggy Ewanoski, Anna Mulder and Leo Thoennes.

Mulder, who turned 100 on June 11, has been a resident at Village Green for 17 years.

Mulder was born in Auburn at the then-newly opened Taylor-Lacey Hospital, now known as the Auburn Regional Medical Center, in 1921. Her three children would later be delivered at the same hospital by the son of the doctor who delivered her as a baby.

Growing up on a dairy farm in the Green River Valley between Auburn and Kent, Mulder was the only child of Dutch immigrants. In her life, she learned Dutch as a child and is still able to speak and write it today.

She married her husband, Nick, at the family farm in June 1944. They were given gasoline rationing stamps by loved ones so they could honeymoon on the Olympic Peninsula. The couple took over the dairy farm, and later sold it as more industrial plants and warehouses moved into the valley.

Mulder’s husband loved to fish, so the couple would travel to the Kenai River in Alaska to fish for king salmon. Her largest catch was a 63-pound salmon.

A visitor to all 50 states, Mulder loved traveling and admiring gardens in the United States and Canada. Mulder and her son, Fred, spent most of the last year at her Hood Canal home as an escape from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thoennes, who turns 100 on Aug. 19, has been a resident of Village Green for almost six years.

Living a long life comes down to good genes and good luck.

“You have to be lucky,” he said. He made it through World War II “without a scratch,” and had the honor of escorting General Douglas MacArthur to Madigan General Hospital in the Korean War. He traveled overseas on the RMS Queen Elizabeth and once won a free trip to England on British Air.

“My life is filled with those kinds of lucky breaks,” he said.

Thoennes was born in a small town in Minnesota with a population of about 100 where everyone spoke German. Thoennes didn’t speak English until he was 5 years old, he said.

He served in the 555th AAA, 104th Infantry Division during World War II before attending Oregon State University to become a mechanical engineer.

He and his wife, LaVerne, who died in 2013, lived in Federal Way’s Twin Lakes neighborhood for 40 years.

The couple had six children — five girls and one boy — and their family has grown to nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Thoennes’s granddaughter, Claire Kretzschmar, a soloist of the New York City Ballet, performed at the July 22 birthday party.

She and Thoennes shared a special dance of the “Tennessee Waltz” on stage.

“The best decade of my life, I think, is right here,” Thoennes said at the party, looking around as his family members took photos and mingled. “To have people coming around like this, my family. It’s the best. I’m living real well now and my health is holding up, so I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.”

Ewanoski, who turns 100 on Oct. 5, has been a resident of Village Green since 2003.

“I don’t have the words to really express because it is so outstanding,” Ewanoski said with a smile when asked about how it feels to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Ewanoski grew up in Iowa, and lived in California with her husband as he worked for the U.S. Forest Service. They moved to Washington to be closer to family. The couple had five children together, two of whom died of cancer later in life.

Ewanoski has eight grandchildren, and “the last time I counted, nine great-grandchildren,” she said.

“I made my mark,” she said with a smile.

To make it to 100, Ewanoski said her mindset was the most important factor.

“I always believed that I would be able to deal with whatever life gave me,” she said. “So, having that self-confidence is probably the biggest thing.”

Looking back on her life, Ewanoski reflected on World War II when communities looked out for one another. Her proudest accomplishment in life is her growing generations of family. For her, people are the center of life’s joy.

“My family, and of course, the family that they have given me,” she said. “It always boils down to people. People supporting people.”


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Village Green Executive Director Kim Salas cuts the birthday cake on July 22. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Village Green Executive Director Kim Salas cuts the birthday cake on July 22. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Leo Thoennes and his family raise their drinks and toys to toast the centenarians.

Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror Leo Thoennes and his family raise their drinks and toys to toast the centenarians.

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