With her daughter Connie and granddaughter Daphne by her side, Myrta Klinkman scanned the menu at the Edmonds Waterfront Center’s Potlatch Bistro Friday as they waited the arrival of other family members to celebrate her 101st birthday.
A resident of Richmond Beach since 1963, Klinkman (née Gesswein) has been a regular visitor and familiar face in Edmonds for many years.
“We used to joke sometimes about things we say about living to be 100,” she chuckled. “‘I’ll never forget this even if I live to be 100,’ or ‘I’ll never do this even if I live to be 100.’ It was kind of a [catchphrase].”
Klinkman is also the author of “My Wanderings and Writings” published in 2019, a compilation of her writings over the last 10 years.
“It’s about some of the places where I’ve been and some of the things that I experienced that were humorous,” she said. “It wasn’t like a journal—at least I didn’t plan it to be—because it was more reminiscing.”
Klinkman’s book begins in early November 1940 in La Porte, Indiana, three months after her father died of a heart attack. Her older sister Ada and her husband Steve invited her and her mother to spend the holidays with them in Rome, New York. Despite the snowstorm that hit the Lake Erie region, Klinkman described the details she saw on her trip and the comfort of her sister’s home that brightened the setting.
Born in Troutville, Pennsylvania, Klinkman and her family moved to Upstate New York shortly after she was born. Her father was a Lutheran minister from St. Louis, Missouri and served at a church in Pennsylvania before the family moved. Later, the family moved to northern Indiana where Klinkman attended high school and college.
“My mother never got to go beyond eighth grade in school, which in her time was common,” Klinkman said. “But she did kinda go to a home ec school. My mother was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and my parents met when my dad was going to college in Milwaukee. My mother was a wonderful cook and baker and homemaker.”
She also remembers that her mother was “more firm” to her and her siblings than her father. “I had a brother next to me in age who was kind of a character, Herb,” she recalled. “I was the youngest of six children. And Herb got into trouble sometimes, and I remember my mother washed his mouth out with soap. So I learned that I never wanted that happen to me.”
She recalled living through the Great Depression and the looming possibility that the U.S. may enter another war. “We never got new clothes, we got hand-me-downs. And if we got anything new, it was quite a celebration,” she said. “And I remember a lot of things from the war, of course. I had a brother who was in the Navy in the Pacific, so those were very stressful days but we also had some good times in those days, especially family.”
After World War II, Klinkman worked in California and also experienced her lifelong dream of traveling in Paris, France, in the early 1950s. Klinkman had four daughters and two sons with her husband Norman “Bud” Klinkman, and they moved to Washington in 1957 to work at King’s Garden (now Crista Ministries) in Shoreline.
In 1962, her husband died from a heart attack at age 44, leaving her to raise six children almost by herself.
“I would like to share about being thankful…for the most part…because there were things that I received that I never thought I would get to do,” she said. “And I never thought I would get married and have a nice family, for example. To be thankful when you can get a job, and not think you have to start with the best job. Work your way up, don’t be so hesitant. I think nowadays everybody wants to be in technology, and we need people in other occupations.”
Before Klinkman had her birthday cake, Edmonds Waterfront CEO Daniel Johnson stopped by to greet her and her family.
“If you eat your meals here, you’d live to be 101, too,” Klinkman joked while shaking hands with Johnson.
Klinkman said she is grateful for many things, including having a celebration of her 100th birthday last year at Shoreline Covenant Church, an apartment to live in, and her kids who help her clean.
“I just want to be available to encourage my kids, my neighbors, and I’ll keep going to my writers group and other church activities. I’m just thankful, especially when somebody offers me a ride,” she laughed.
— By Nick Ng