Even at 100, an Everett woman looks forward

Grace Bargreen Parsons turns 100 today.

She might play golf or a game of bridge. Going out for dinner is in the plans. Whatever the details, she’ll savor this birthday. She savors every day.

“We have a great life,” the longtime Everett woman said from Palm Springs, Calif., her home away from home. She is here summers, at home atop Everett’s Rucker Hill. She and her husband, Edgar Parsons, spend much of the year in California.

It’s not in her nature to dwell on the past. “I always look forward, not backward,” she said Monday by phone. Even so, she agreed to share her history, which intersects with a remarkable number of landmarks and achievements in Everett and the Puget Sound region.

In strong voice, and with memories as clear as those of people decades younger, she began with her idyllic childhood. “I can’t think of an unhappy time as a child,” she said. “I loved being on the farm.”

Grace Cohoe Wilcox, the daughter of Judson and Elizabeth Wilcox, was raised with three siblings on what would become Wilcox Family Farms, a dairy and egg farm in the Roy area north of Mount Rainier. Born in Seattle, she was a baby when her parents started the farm in 1909. Like Grace, the farm marks its centennial this year.

She majored in music at what’s now Washington State University in Pullman. An accomplished singer, she had offers to be a vocalist at radio stations in Spokane and Seattle. She worked as a singer at the Paradise Inn lodge at Mount Rainier. After college, she taught music in Arlington. “There was one high school and seven grade schools. They never had music before,” she said, recalling her work with a school band, orchestra and glee clubs.

By 1931, she had met and married Everett native Howard S. Bargreen. On their first date, they danced in the new year, 1930, at Everett’s Monte Cristo Hotel before going to the Bargreen lake house at Lake Stevens. Howard took Grace for a late-night canoe ride.

Bargreen’s family had founded what became the Bargreen Coffee Co. in 1898. In the 1930s, the family started Crown Distributing Co., a beverage distributor. By 1959, Howard Bargreen was a Washington state senator. He was also one of 15 commissioners who planned the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Grace and Howard Bargreen had four children, Sam, Sharon, Howard and Claudette; all but Howard have died. Grace Bargreen’s husband, Howard, died in 1987.

She treasures memories of life in Everett. They bought more than 20 acres on Rucker Hill and built a house on Sharon Crest, a street named for their older daughter. A full-time homemaker, Grace Bargreen was also devoted to the community. With Kitty Young, she was instrumental in founding the Assistance League in Everett. The Bargreens were one of the founding families of the charitable Greater Everett Community Foundation.

During the Seattle World’s Fair, the family relocated to Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill. Grace Bargreen organized and ran an international marketplace, and oversaw personnel during the 1962 fair.

That summer, she’d work in a fair office by day and entertain visiting dignitaries with her husband in the evenings. “I’d keep a dinner dress on the back of the office door,” she said.

In Everett, she pushed for the construction of a new Jackson Elementary School. That effort began when her youngest child attended the old school. Grace Bargreen was concerned about fire danger. She recalls taking her concerns to the school board and The Everett Herald. “Howard called it my one-woman crusade,” she said.

She and Edgar Parsons, who’ll turn 90 in April, have been married seven years. They’re planning a birthday bash in March.

At 100, Grace Bargreen Parsons credits the longevity of her ancestors, smart habits and good friends for her health. She likes to cook and plays golf at least weekly.

“I feel very well,” she said. “My mother was a nutritionist before people used that word. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, three meals a day, and take care of yourself.” With some golf friends less than half her age, she doesn’t feel her years.

“I never felt old. I still don’t feel old,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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