Vivacious 111-year-old was always on the go - Obituary
Seattle Times, The (WA) - February 10, 2005
Author/Byline: Marsha King, Seattle Times staff reporter
Section: Local News
At age 111, Gunnie Foerster ? a sensible woman with a surprisingly firm grip ? was thought to be the oldest living person in Washington.
And just before her birthday last Dec. 28, Mrs. Foerster was certified as one of the oldest living people in the world. Her name was added to the Worldwide Table for Living Supercentenarians, an exclusive list of those at least 110 years old.
Mrs. Foerster died Friday after a brief illness at CRISTA Nursing Center in Shoreline. At the time of her death, she was 38th on the supercentenarian list, which included 54 women and six men.
Mrs. Foerster, whose remarkable longevity was heralded in The Seattle Times last December, never could stand to be idle.
"She was very hardworking," said her granddaughter, Siri Bach of Auburn. "I don't remember her ever sitting still."
In her early 80s, she walked to the grocery store and carried the bags several blocks home. In her early 90s, she played pinochle and grew impatient when younger opponents couldn't keep up. After she turned 100, she rolled around her nursing home in a wheelchair, traveling so far and wide that staffers made her wear a beeper.
On her last birthday, she was honored at the nursing home with Scandinavian dancers and fiddlers surrounded by a crowd from the media.
As far as anyone could tell, she enjoyed the party.
"This year she was wide awake the whole time," said daughter Marilyn Carlson, who threw a celebration for her mother every birthday starting at age 100.
Over the past 20 years, Mrs. Foerster made amazing recoveries from many an illness and injury, often to the surprise of friends and family.
Everyone would start preparing themselves for the worst. Then in two or three days, she'd be ready to get out of bed.
But this time was different.
"I guess, maybe, she made the decision to go," Carlson wrote in an e-mail this week.
Carlson, who visited Mrs. Foerster every day, learned of her mother's death while traveling in New Zealand.
Mrs. Foerster was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1893, one of four children in a very poor family. Her father was a horse-and-buggy driver forced to raise the children alone after his wife died.
As a 20-year-old with a seventh-grade education, Mrs. Foerster moved to the United States to join a sister in Spokane.
In Spokane, she learned English while cleaning houses and was named Miss Norway in a contest there.
She never looked back.
"I don't remember her ever telling a story about the past," Bach said.
Frivolity and joking around weren't part of her common-sense nature. Right from the start, she believed the only way to make a better life was to work hard and keep at it.
So Mrs. Foerster salted fish for an Alaska fish company and waited tables for a Seattle restaurant, eventually raising enough money to bring another sister to America.
After World War I she and husband, Arthur Foerster, a longshoreman, raised two children in Seattle. They scrimped and saved enough to buy a modest house on the waterfront in Edmonds and to financially help their children and grandchildren.
"She always did the best she could without complaint," Carlson wrote, "and was most appreciative of whatever was done for her. She never failed to say thanks."
And there was no doubt the caring mother "always had her children's best interests in mind," Carlson added.
For fun, Mrs. Foerster loved to play cards, work crossword puzzles and cook.
Healthy eating wasn't a goal. She loved meat, mashed potatoes and lots of salt, fat and sugar with gravy over everything. But she never smoked, rarely drank and walked everywhere.
When the president of the United States sent a congratulatory letter for her 100th birthday, Mrs. Foerster didn't give a hoot.
By her way of thinking, that was just frivolous.
Mrs. Foerster is survived by daughter Marilyn Carlson of Seattle; son Arthur Richard Foerster of Elizabethtown, Pa.; four grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at the end of February at CRISTA upon her daughter's return.
Marsha King: 206-464-2232 or email@example.com
Caption: photoAlan Berner / The Seattle Times : Gunnie Foerster, with granddaughter Siri Bach and great-grandson Logan Bach, celebrated her 111th birthday with Nordiska dancers. (0395278778)Gunnie Foerster came from Norway at age 20. (0395278775)
Index terms: Obituary; Biography Gunnie Foerster; Biography Gunnie FoersterRecord: TJQQHO37Copyright: Copyright (c) 2005 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.
Arthur J Foerster
1894–1967 (m. 1920)
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