Lifestyle

A century old and still laughing | Freeland resident celebrates milestone birthday

Harold Robinett holds up a photo showing three generations of his family. In the photo are his parents, Robinett and his wife Sally, his four children and other family members.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Harold Robinett holds up a photo showing three generations of his family. In the photo are his parents, Robinett and his wife Sally, his four children and other family members.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

Freeland resident Harold Robinett is about to join a select group of people in this world. This weekend, he will become a centenarian.

Born in Oregon in 1914, Robinett has lived a full life, from joining the Navy to finding love twice, all while making unforgettable treats along the way.

Robinett will turn 100 this Sunday, April 6. A community celebration will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Clinton Community Hall.

Robinett, who now lives in Maple Ridge in Freeland, is an active man who exercises every morning and avoids coffee and alcoholic drinks. He even drove and tended to his home in Maxwelton up until last year, at age 99.

That never surprised his daughter-in-law, Debbie Daumen, who often keeps Robinett’s mantra in mind.

“ ‘A body in motion stays in motion,’ he always told us that,” she said.

Robinett joined the Navy when he was barely 17 years old and wore the uniform for the next 20 years. He served aboard the USS Chicago during World War II in the Pacific Ocean theater. The ship made several stops in the Pacific while heading to Australia.

“It was a nice, big ship,” he remembered. “I was doing what was necessary to get home.”

Luckily, Robinett was sent back to the base before the cruiser was sunk by Japanese torpedoes in 1943.

“A guy told me to ‘pack it up, start doing something different,’ ” he recalled.

Robinett moved to Whidbey Island in the early 1950s while still in the Navy, later staying on the base working as a firefighter until his retirement.

With his wife Sally, the Robinetts adopted four children — Delores, Patsy, Mary Sue and Martin — from Japan in the 1950s to start their own family.

For Martin Robinett, his father was a tough man who taught his children to be hard workers.

“He’s stern. A good husband, good father — quite stern,” Martin recalls. “He meant what he said, and when he said something, we listened.”

Martin, who lives in Coupeville, said he is looking forward to being with his father and meeting his friends to share memories in the upcoming celebration.

“It’s hard to believe that dad’s going to be 100,” he said. “You don’t meet too many people who are going to be 100.”

One of Martin’s favorite memories with his father was fishing at Bush Point when he was about 12 years old.

“I caught more fish than he did,” Martin said enthusiastically, recalling that he caught five humpies that day, two more than his father. “I didn’t think I was going to catch anything.”

Robinett was also an avid golfer, taking his clubs wherever he went.

After Sally’s passing, Robinett married his second wife Geanie, who had three children of her own. Together they traveled the country and Canada in a new venture selling homemade caramels and syrup called Grandma’s Old Fashioned Caramels.

Martin still remembers the delicious taste of the treats, which he still keeps in his freezer.

“It’s delicious on ice cream,” he said.

The couple visited many fairs and festivals dressed in old Victorian-style attire to sell the sweets.

“It was always the family treat,” Robinett said.

Robinett credits his longevity to a daily dose of oatmeal, his homemade lemon-honey-vinegar juice and, until recently, frequent golfing.

Robinett golfed with a group on Whidbey for 18 years and said he always walked the course, even when his teammates rode the golf cart.

“It’s pretty amazing, he’s as healthy as can be,” Daumen said.

He also said a lot of laughter keeps his spirits up.

“We’re always keeping each other laughing,” she said.

Daumen told Robinett she always knew he would make it to be at least 100.

“How did you know I could make it that far?,” he asked Daumen.

“Because I believe in you,” she said.

 

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