Port Angeles resident celebrates 110th birthday: ‘She’s funny as hell’

PORT ANGELES — Julia Rose and her granddaughter had a time of it when they moved in together.

“We fought,” said Jamie Jenott, pressing her fists together like butting heads.

They had been best friends before that. But when Rose turned 99, Jenott moved her petite, Portuguese-born grandmother into her house.

That was 11 years ago. Grandma and granddaughter have worked things out, and celebrated some major birthdays, including Rose’s 110th, on Friday.

The day was a sun-bathed one here, fitting since Rose came from the sunny Portuguese islands known as the Azores.

She grew up in Candelaria on the island of Pico, and she had a lot of boyfriends there.

“But they all wanted to stay in Portugal,” Jenott added.

Except one. There was one beau who up and went to the United States, to California, where he found work as a carpenter and asked his sweetheart, Julia, to join him.

She came from country people who didn’t keep formal birth records.

But as she set out for the new country, her parents provided information indicating she was 20 years old, born in late January 1902.

Rose traveled across the ocean and across the North American continent to the fertile San Joaquin Valley to marry Joe and make a life in “the land of plenty,” as Jenott put it.

Julia Rose worked in the sweet-potato fields and then in the canneries around San Jose, where she and Joe later lived.

She was also a homemaker and known for a garden ablaze with fruit and flowers.

“She always had the best orange trees,” said her granddaughter Stephanie Indelicato of Port Angeles.

There was sweet anise and leafy greens — “she was always busy with her garden.”

Indelicato outlined her grandmother’s “older diet,” which includes some of her favorites from California: an orange each day, oatmeal for breakfast, fava-bean soup, a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and Morcilla sausage.

Those last two may not sound like heart-healthy choices. Doctors did tell Rose that she had congestive heart failure.

“They gave her about two years” to live, Jenott said, “but that’s been a long time ago.”

Rose half-listened to the conversation about her health while gazing out her living room window at the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

From the home she and Jenott share in west Port Angeles, she has a bright-blue view and plentiful light for crocheting.

Rose is one fast needleworker — “she has to be done with it yesterday,” Jenott said — and has crocheted what look like acres of afghans.

Her home is filled with them, while dozens have been given to international charities. Jenott can barely keep her in yarn.

This busyness, her granddaughters believe, is one key to her health — along with the fact that “she never smoked, never drank or did drugs,” Indelicato added.

Another stress-producing thing Rose never did was drive a car. She became an adult, after all, years before those things were commonplace.

When asked to name the hardest part of her long life, Rose sighed, and was silent for a moment.

“Losing my husband,” she said finally.

Joe died in 1972, in his mid-70s. He had always smoked and suffered from hardening of the arteries, his granddaughters said.

The men in Rose’s own family — she was one of nine siblings — did not live as long as the women, Jenott added.

One of Rose’s sisters lived to be 103.

But she has outlived her siblings, and “at this age, all of your friends are gone,” said Indelicato.

“She’s got us to deal with,” she said, referring to Rose’s Port Angeles family.

They include granddaughters Jenott, 60, Indelicato, 61, great-granddaughters Vanessa and Gina Indelicato, and great-grandsons Kaeden, 4, Trenton, 8, and Tré, 11.

For Jenott, living with her 110-year-old grandmother is a gift.

“She saw the world through eyes that we’ll never have,” Jenott said.

Rose has grown more childlike, though, and speaks more Portuguese as the years go by.

“She’s funny as hell,” Jenott added.

“She says off-the-wall things” in English and Portuguese.

Indelicato spoke up then.

“The reason why she has lived so long is because [Jenott] is such a good caregiver. She gets her to do what she can do” instead of trying to do everything for her.

Rose still gets herself in and out of bed, still bathes herself and shampoos her own hair, Jenott said, adding that she understood quite awhile ago that she’d better let her grandmother keep as much of her independence as possible.

Rose has excellent bone density, Jenott said.

Around age 102, she started feeling some arthritis — but that didn’t stop her from crocheting.

“I have more arthritis than Grandma has,” her granddaughter added.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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