PORT TOWNSEND — Having survived the Great Depression and two pandemics, Lorraine Hansen was cheered on her 104th birthday by family, friends, law enforcement and firefighters in a drive-by parade.
Hansen was born the year before the Spanish Flu broke out worldwide.
“She was so young during the first (pandemic) that I don’t think she remembered it, but this one is just another bump in the road,” said her son, Jim, who spoke for his mother.
“She’s adapted and done what she had to do,” he said. “I think she’s had a positive attitude about it and been accepting of whatever comes along in her life.”
He stood beside her on Friday as an outdoor procession of well-wishers moved past at the Port Townsend Life Care Center. The center had organized the celebration to mark her birthday, which was Saturday.
Born Lorraine Fedderly on April 3, 1917 in Yakima as the penultimate youngest of six children — three boys and three girls — she lost her mother during the birth of her little sister when she was 5. Her father died when she was 14. She was raised by relatives until she graduated from high school.
She married Bill Hansen in 1941 after meeting him while working in Yakima. They had three sons: twins Jim and Bob, who turn 73 this month, and John, who would’ve marked his 75th birthday this year if he had not died two years ago this May of lymphoma cancer.
“I think she’s somebody who has endured a lot through life but has remained very positive,” Jim said.
“She’s always tried to do the best she can.
“She had a lot of issues growing up, but she always had a positive attitude.”
While raising her sons, she worked as a legal secretary in Yakima. After Jim and Bob graduated from high school, she and Bill moved to Capital Hill in Seattle. There she was a legal secretary at a law firm where she worked until they both retired in 1979 and moved to the San Juan Islands.
In 1986, Bill died of a heart attack and Lorraine went back to work, serving as a legal secretary in Friday Harbor for 14 years.
In the mid-’90s, Hansen retired again and moved to Port Townsend. There she lived in an apartment for a few years before relocating to Discovery View Retirement Apartments for 13 years, and then moving into the Port Townsend Life Care Center in July 2020, Jim said.
Hansen has survived all of her siblings.
When she was younger, she was an avid golfer and gardener and also enjoyed reading and shopping, her son said.
Jim loves her resilience.
“She’s always moved ahead,” he said. “She’s always had a positive attitude and has always looked for the best in other people. She’s been able to enjoy life and have a good outlook on life.”
Seeing her turn 104 has Jim wondering how he and Bob will do in their later years.
“She’s gotten the most out of her life and we’re looking at her as an example of the way we would like to be,” he said.
At 104, she’s “very healthy,” he said, but she has lost much of her hearing and her physical condition has started to decline.
“She’s just not able to do as many things and it’s just more difficult for her,” he said.
Jim and his wife, Maxine, are retired and live in Seattle. They visit his mother weekly.
Bob and his wife, Julie, live in Vermont, where he builds low-income housing and she works as the superintendent of a private school. They talk with Hansen at least once a week, Jim said.
John sold real estate in Port Townsend where his widow, Martha, still lives. She visits Hansen regularly, Jim said.
He said that his mother gave her three sons a “wonderful childhood” in Yakima.
“She was always very thankful for the things we had, and she conveyed that to us,” he said. “But, she was also a very strict mother and we had definite do’s and don’ts and things we knew we should do.
“It was a time when we all could just get along and have a very good life,” he continued.
“She’s always cared about her family. That’s always been her biggest goal in life: taking care of her family.”
One of his favorite memories is of the entire family spending a sunny day at the Columbia River playing in the ponds and sand dunes when he was 4 or 5.
“That’s a really wonderful memory,” he said.
His mother now has eight grandchildren and four great-children, Jim said.
“In some respects, it’s not a remarkable life; she’s just always worked and gotten by and done things,” he said.
“But, then again, it’s pretty amazing all the things she’s lived through and accomplished.
“It’s been a great life.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]