Dozens of relatives and friends gathered Monday to wish LaVerne Bunney a happy 110th birthday at Brookdale Arbor Place in Everett. Her grandson, Doug Ware, watches Gideon Oravetz, 7, and Oden Roehl, 3, help blow out candles. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Dozens of relatives and friends gathered Monday to wish LaVerne Bunney a happy 110th birthday at Brookdale Arbor Place in Everett. Her grandson, Doug Ware, watches Gideon Oravetz, 7, and Oden Roehl, 3, help blow out candles. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

‘Pretty amazing’ LaVerne Bunney parties on her 110th birthday

She was born in North Dakota in 1909. Surrounded by family on her special day, she keeps on smiling.

LaVerne Bunney has a secret, but won’t share it. On her 110th birthday Monday, she was asked several times about the key to her long, long life.

“It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you,” Bunney happily told party guests before blowing out candles — not 110 of them, but three candle numbers: 1, 1 and 0.

Wearing a lavender blouse and a sparkling smile, Bunney was surrounded by generations of loved ones and friends at Brookdale Arbor Place, the Everett senior living community where she has lived since 2008.

She was born April 15, 1909, in Carrington, North Dakota, to Guy and Rose Batesole. “I was the oldest,” said Bunney, who had three sisters and three brothers. The youngest, Dale Batesole, is living in California. “He’s 18 years younger than I,” she said.

In 1909, William Howard Taft had just succeeded Teddy Roosevelt to become the nation’s 27th president. Taft wouldn’t visit Everett until 1911. Everett’s original Snohomish County Courthouse burned in 1909 after a blacksmith’s sparks lit a fire that destroyed 12 buildings. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a world’s fair, was staged on the University of Washington campus the year Bunney was born.

LaVerne Bunney reads birthday cards that continue to pile up during the party. At 110, Bunney has no trouble reading. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

LaVerne Bunney reads birthday cards that continue to pile up during the party. At 110, Bunney has no trouble reading. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Bunney can’t claim to be Washington’s oldest person. Puyallup’s Gertrude Ellison turned 110 in May 2018. Our state lost one of the nation’s eldest in 2015, when Emma Otis, of Poulsbo, died at 114.

At Brookdale Arbor Place, a 110-year-old’s birthday is as rare as Bunney is extraordinary.

“This is record-setting,” said Gary Jacobs, the facility’s executive director. Bunney keeps busy, is upbeat and loves reading — she doesn’t even need large-print books, Jacobs said.

“She’s pretty amazing,” said Bryce Bosket, the facility’s chef. Bunney “knows what she likes” at mealtime, he added.

During her party, sunlight spills into the room from two sides. At 110, LaVerne Bunney appears as bright as the day. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

During her party, sunlight spills into the room from two sides. At 110, LaVerne Bunney appears as bright as the day. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Bunney has been a widow for 30 years. Her husband, Robert Roy Bunney, also born in 1909, was 80 when he died in 1989. A roads engineer, he was a private contractor who worked on the Mountain Loop Highway, area bridges and other projects, according to Bunney’s grandson, Doug Ware, 67, who traveled from Arizona for Monday’s party.

LaVerne was 19 when she and Robert Bunney were married in Minot, North Dakota. They moved to the Northwest — “for one thing, the winters weren’t as cold here,” she said — and raised four children, three girls and a boy. Two daughters, Dolores and Darlene, have died.

Sitting next to his mother Monday was her son, Bob Bunney, who is almost 90. Her 81-year-old daughter, Joan Oravetz, was there, too, sharing memories of their childhood.

LaVerne and Robert Bunney were married in North Dakota when she was 19. He worked as a roads engineer, particularly on the Mountain Loop Highway. (Family Photo)

LaVerne and Robert Bunney were married in North Dakota when she was 19. He worked as a roads engineer, particularly on the Mountain Loop Highway. (Family Photo)

“She was a great mom. She taught us how to work,” said Oravetz, of Sequim. She recalled how her mom liked to memorize poetry and would sing while braiding her daughters’ hair. The Bunney family lived on Everett’s Wetmore Avenue, and later on Colby Avenue near what would become Everett Community College.

For a time they had an Everett ice cream business, “like Dairy Queen,” said Oravetz, who remembers working with her mom at the shop on Rucker Avenue.

Her hearing, not what it used to be, makes conversations a bit loud. Her answers sometimes come slowly. Her face lit up Monday when someone asked if she liked to bake bread and cinnamon rolls, treats she had long been known for.

LaVerne Batesole, left, as a child in North Dakota with her little sister, Evelyn. (Family Photo)

LaVerne Batesole, left, as a child in North Dakota with her little sister, Evelyn. (Family Photo)

On Monday, LaVerne Bunney relished two slices of cake — one white, the other chocolate — at a table decorated with candy Easter eggs and a decorative bunny. Great-great-grandchildren joined other loved ones in singing “Happy birthday to you …”

Craig Bunney, 66, said he has never thought much about his grandmother’s age. No one would guess by looking that she’s 110.

“She just keeps going and going,” he said. “She reads and she has a good attitude — I think that’s the most of it.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Karen Moore
Civil attorney appointed to be Snohomish County judge

Karen Moore is a former deputy prosecutor. She also has experience as a pro tem judge and commissioner.

Eastside Tire and Muffler on Avenue D in Snohomish burns early Wednesday. (Snohomish County Fire District 4) 20210512
Snohomish tire store erupts in flames

The fire at Eastside Tire and Muffler was reported early Wednesday morning.

No one hurt in Lake Bosworth house fire

Fire crews arrived at the scene to find a small home engulfed in flames. It was destroyed.

Two E. Coli cases in Snohomish County; one child hospitalized

Authorities linked the cases to an outbreak in King County, possibly stemming from fresh produce.

Crews contracted by the Washington State Department of Transportation for pavement work on the U.S. 2 bridge over the Pilchuck River are set to close one lane this weekend to replace and install expansion joints. (WSDOT)
U.S. 2 Pilchuck River bridge closure and work delayed

The Pilchuck River bridge east of Highway 9 was set to close to one lane this weekend.

Josh Otusanya, 27, former Lake Stevens high soccer star turned comedian, has 4.6 million followers on TikTok for his inspirational videos from his family's home. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A funny local TikToker with 5M followers offers life hacks

Josh Otusanya, a Lake Stevens soccer star turned New York comedian, reinvented himself in his family’s basement.

Jeffrey Phebus is sentenced to over 31 years in prison for the murder of his wife Rebecca Phebus, on Monday, May 10, 2021, at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
‘No words’: Arlington man sentenced for killing wife at work

Jeffery Phebus, 61, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 31⅔ years in prison Monday.

Ron Detrick teaches his geometry class Wednesday morning at Lakewood Middle School in Marysville on May 12, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
For real, these Lakewood pupils are back in class full time

Elementary and middle school students there are getting in-person instruction five days a week.

Deborah Rumbaugh (left), Jay Jordan (center) and John Boyd are finalists for the Stanwood School District's superintendent position.
Finalists for Stanwood schools chief are coming to town

Each will visit the district this week to meet staff and take part in a virtual community forum.

Most Read