CAMANO ISLAND — Lucile Nelson celebrated her 97th birthday Sunday. On a zipline, 50 feet off the ground.
A former lookout fire spotter for the U.S. Forest Service, Nelson likes to have fun.
One year she flew to New Zealand to bungee jump. Sadly, she tripped and fell on the walk out to the jump, too injured then to finish. But that was followed by a birthday that included a hot-air balloon ride and yet another with a day-long Harley-Davidson motorcycle ride arranged by her grandson, Marysville Police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux.
When Nelson’s daughter Shirlee Lamoureux heard about the Canopy Tours Northwest zipline in a forest on Camano Island, she decided it would be her mother’s next memorable birthday gift. Lamoureux, 72, formerly of Marysville, now shares her home with Nelson in Oak Harbor.
“I decided the zipline was the perfect thing,” Shirlee Lamoureux said. “We kept it a surprise from her, because Mom likes surprises, too.”
Nelson, who goes by the name “Luc” (pronounced Luke), had friends travel from as far away as Alaska to join her on the zipline tour on Sunday. She also was joined by three generations of her family, including great-grandsons TJ Lamoureux, 12, of Marysville and his cousin Christopher Lamoureux, 14, of Oak Harbor.
Nelson is a painter, potter, gardener and reader of murder mysteries. She dressed in blue jeans, a red vest and hiking boots for the day. When she arrived at the tour and realized what she was about to do, Nelson smiled.
“Oh, this is exciting,” Nelson said.
Christopher said he wasn’t surprised that his great-grandmother was game for the tour.
“She’s done so many things in her life,” he said. “But this is really cool.”
Nelson, born in 1915, grew up in Colorado. She raised two daughters in New Mexico and Ashland, Ore., while waiting tables. When she was in her 50s, she took a seasonal job with the Forest Service near Yreka, Calif., in a forest fire lookout. After retirement she went to Alaska to visit a friend and ended up living more than 20 years in Kodiak, where she learned to fish “just for the halibut,” she said.
After moving to Washington state to be near family, Nelson was a regular in her aerobic exercise class.
“See, I can stand on one leg,” she said.
Her grandson Paul Lamoureux of Oak Harbor said Nelson’s dining room table is covered with oil paints. She plans to present her artwork to each of her six grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren.
Robb Lamoureux calls his grandmother “sharp, sassy and spry.”
“She was a great person to grow up around” he said. “She has no fear.”
Nelson listened intently to her tour guide as she prepared to step off a deck high in a Douglas fir tree on the first leg of the zipline. She nodded and then off she went, much to the pleasure of her relatives and friends who cheered and applauded.
“Wow. That was awesome,” she said at the other end of the line. “Can we do this again next year? What a delightful birthday present on such a beautiful day. It’s above and beyond what I imagined.”
After a short break following the fourth zipline of the tour, Nelson was ready to travel the final two.
“Let’s zip on,” she said.
Kris Kristoferson of Canopy Tours Northwest on Camano Island told Nelson that if she makes it to age 100, she can use his zipline for free.
“Let’s plan on it,” Nelson said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Canopy Tours Northwest on Camano Island, call 360-387-5807 or go to www.canopytoursnw.com.