At 108 years old, Dorothy Reed is a wealth of wisdom

This photo of Dorothy Reed includes a glimpse of the vase she won some 100 years ago in broad jump at a May Day festival in North Dakota. “Schools got together and had a picnic and I competed in the broad jump —and won,” she said.

A retired gardener and dedicated weeder — that and many other attributes make up the amazing life of Dorothy Reed. Her faith, perseverance, grit and interest in all things seem to be her recipe for a long life. At 108 years old, she knows her limits and keeps active baking, cleaning her home, crocheting, and doing puzzles. She still lives independently at home, thanks to very helpful and caring family and neighbors who are right there for her.

Feisty, with an amazingly sharp mind, this petite lady remembers exact dates and incidents from way back.

She was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1913. The oldest of four kids, she grew up on a ranch where she herded and milked cows, shocked grain, cared for horses and pigs, and helped her mother some in the garden — she enjoyed weeding, she professes. Her mother grew a huge flower garden.

A one-room school (first through eighth grade) was four miles away and in winter the kids rode there on a horse-drawn covered sleigh. There was a small barn for the horse. The kids put heated rocks down near their feet, covered with a blanket to keep warm in North Dakota’s extremely cold winters.

“I came out to Wenatchee Aug. 6, 1936, to visit my maternal grandmother,” she recalls. No jobs during the Depression at home, so why not? Reed found a job in the fruit industry and later met and married Carl Reed, manager of a fruit warehouse. They were married 39 years, until Carl passed away in 1976. Both worked their entire careers for Fruit Growers Service.

The Reeds’ 5-acre orchard homesite on Peters Street in Sunnyslope included apples, cherries, apricots and five types of eating grapes. Their offspring includes Jim, who lives near Pomeroy, Donna in Lake Stevens, three grandchildren, five great grandchildren, plus a nephew and niece in East Wenatchee and other extended family.

“In 1952 —July 3rd, the hottest day we had all summer — we moved to Wenatchee, along the canal,” she explains. Many years later she moved to a one-story home so she didn’t have the challenge of stairs—that was 17 years ago when she was ‘only’ 91 years old!

Yes, she remembers dates and specific details; she has an amazing memory, says her son, Jim.

Her determination and grit no doubt played a part in her dedication of grubbing out Russian sage and puncturevine in her earlier years. “They didn’t have a chance,” she chuckles.

“Oh, my goodness, what all I could do,” she exclaims. “I was making dinners for family by the time I was 11 years old, and liked housekeeping, baking, cooking, cleaning.” She says her mother followed recipes while she adds a pinch of this and a bit of that.

The day before interviewing her, she had baked two loaves of zucchini bread and a peach pie while Jim was visiting.

Among her flower favorites, she discussed primroses (harbingers of spring), coral bells (because they rebloom after deadheading), all colors of tulips, several types of lilies and so many other plants that she’s moved from one homesite to the next. This year yielded a great blueberry crop.

She’s an avid Mariners fan who reads and, until a recent arm operation, sewed with her 1953 Singer sewing machine. She made quantities of quilt tops that went to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to be completed and given to those in need. With her hand less flexible due to recent surgery, she’s limited right now to crocheting but has five baby blanket kits ready for the church’s November auction.

“I’ve always been happy with life and never worry too much,” she explains.

What an inspiration for us ‘younger’ souls! Reed is uncomplaining, active, interested in what’s going on, has an astonishing memory, and is just a nice lady. A goal for us all.

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured. To learn more, visit or call (509) 667-6540.

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