At 102, grandkids keep her busy

Get on a firm schedule if you want to live to be 102, going on 103.

Gladys Wieder Reddy Mortensen of Lynnwood follows the same routine every day.

Up at 6 a.m. for pills, half a cup of oatmeal, four prunes, chewed with her own teeth, and a glass of milk.

Midmorning nap.

Lunch is right at noon. Not 11:59 a.m. Not 12:01 p.m. High noon. Don’t bother her. She is eating one piece of 12-grain bread, perhaps with canned salmon spread on top. And tomatoes.

Crochet kitchen scrubbies, nap, dinner is at 6 p.m. Again, dinner is right at 6 p.m. Often her granddaughter brings her over a great evening meal, followed by something sweet.

She is the first senior I’ve met who doesn’t watch “Wheel of Fortune.”

It’s “Dr. Phil.” And “Oprah.”

“‘Judge Judy’ is great,” Mortensen said. “She gives ‘em the dickens.”

As we chatted, she pointed out homes across Martha Lake. When she and her husband bought acreage on the water, the family had picnics and swam on weekends in the 1950s and ’60s.

Widowed twice, she was born May 12, 1904 in Kalispell, Mont. Her father was a butcher who moved the family around from job to job. At one point they lived in Madison Park in Seattle.

“Politicians were dumb, dumb, dumb,” she said. “They had three cable cars. You could go on Madison and catch a ferry to Kirkland.”

Expendable cable cars made way for more modern modes of transportation, she said.

Because her family moved around, Mortensen said she never had any close girlfriends. Her father had six brothers and her mother had six sisters. When she was 7, her family homesteaded 160 free acres outside of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Two uncles were on neighboring parcels.

They set out from Edmonton for their land in covered wagons pulled by oxen.

But the pioneer idea didn’t pan out.

“It was a hard life,” she said. “The money didn’t last.”

Mortensen didn’t mind moving back to America. She never got the pony of her dreams at the old ranch.

After business college, she married at age 18. The couple had two daughters. They lived near Northgate, when it was no-man’s land. In 1947, she and her husband bought a gas station on the Bothell-Everett Highway, near Murphy’s Corner and then retired after a dozen years of pumping ethyl.

The couple built a home on Martha Lake. Extended family lives around her property.

When they moved in, Larch Way, north of 164th Street SE, was a dead end. There were no homes on the northeast side of her beloved lake. These days you could hardly squeeze in another two-story on any side of the water.

What really makes her angry is all that encroaching development. When she was a young woman, folks could drink right out of the lake, she said.

After they retired, she and her husband traveled around the western United States with a camper on a truck. Mortensen has never been on an airplane and that’s fine with her, she said.

Besides a bit of macular degeneration in her eyes, her health is fine. The avid gardener doesn’t do much outdoor work these days. She is invited to all the family functions, and when her grandchildren have get-togethers with friends, Grandma goes along, too.

“Everyone loves her,” said her granddaughter, Kathy Shaw. “She has a great sense of humor.

Friend Pam Singh, who calls Mortensen “Grandma,” took the centenarian to a party in Oak Harbor, where Grandma met Pete.

“She was so impressed with his garden and chickens that she saved all of her egg shells and egg cartons to give to Pete,” Singh said. “Of course, Pete was a younger man. I think he was in his late 70s.”

She loves the men, Singh added.

Life was good when Mortensen could get out to senior dances. She never smoked and only drank socially.

In my clodhopper way, I shocked her when I asked why she doesn’t move to a nursing home to be around other seniors.

“I don’t need friends,” she snapped. “I have grandkids. They are always having birthday parties.”


She used to like Wal-Mart when it went in about a mile from her home, but only to sit in the store’s McDonald’s and watch people walk by. She never wanted to shop there. One thing she does enjoy is the evening news on KIRO-TV.

Amy Clancy is her favorite newscaster.

Mortensen said she never figured how long she would live. Her dad died in his 70s and her mom died at age 94.

“I live for every day,” she said.

With a set routine.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or

Kristi O’Harran / The Herald

Gladys Wieder Reddy Mortensen, 102, says she sticks to a firm daily schedule and enjoys her time with her grandkids. “I live for every day,” she said.

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