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Celebrating mothers | Two centenarians recall the wonders of motherhood
When it comes to motherhood, both Eileen Wilson and Alta Brodie of Freeland consider themselves grateful to have been blessed with loving children and families.
At 102, both women now have three generations under them and have witnessed the lasting impact of a mother’s love on her children.
Passing on the music
Eileen Wilson had her first child, Pat, in 1940 after waiting seven years with her husband Edgar. They were living in Oak Harbor at the time while Edgar worked as a mechanic at the military base. Wilson remembers her husband wanted a girl and was delighted to find out Pat’s gender.
Wilson remembers chuckling at her husband’s wish and telling him, “You want a girl? It’s just like reaching in a grab bag — you take what you get.”
An only child, Wilson found herself passing on her love to another only child, and Pat was a happy baby, she recalled.
Later, Wilson took in a foster daughter, Delores, who had raised herself until the age of 12 in a bad home, Wilson said.
“It wasn’t always easy, but I had a good caseworker and she helped me out,” Wilson recalled.
Both daughters are now retired and have children of their own. Wilson has two grandsons and six great-grandsons.
Wilson was a church pianist for 20 years, often accompanying people and teaching her own lessons. She tried to pass that knowledge on to Pat at a young age, but the interest wasn’t there.
“I didn’t want to force her,” Wilson said.
When she reached high school age, Pat wanted to play the trumpet and started taking private lessons to play in the school band.
Unsure how long her daughter would continue her lessons, Wilson made sure the trumpet she bought was affordable. But Pat stuck with it and Wilson didn’t have to push her daughter to practice.
Pat continued to play the trumpet for a number of years. Pat’s sons and grandsons — Wilson’s great-grandsons — used the trumpet as well.
“That trumpet earned its money,” Wilson remarked.
She’s watched her daughter, Pat Rothwell, raise her own children and every once in a while sees traits of herself and Edgar in her.
“She’s stubborn just like her father and mother,” Wilson said. “But she’s a very good daughter.”
Wilson has enjoyed becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother, saying “The boys are very good to me.”
She also feels fortunate to have great children who have stayed out of trouble.
“All you can do is talk to them and guide them. That’s about all,” Wilson said. “They can take your advice or not.”
Teaching lifelong skills
Alta Brodie had five children with her husband Alexander. Brodie was born in Everett and spent most of her life living in Marysville before moving to Freeland earlier this year. Her middle daughter, Marilyn Lueken, who has been on the island for 14 years, describes her mother as active while she was growing up.
Brodie led a 4-H group, gardened, canned and frequently participated in neighborhood activities.
“She was a hands-on mother,” Lueken said.
One of the distinct memories Lueken still has is working in the family garden.
“We needed them to garden and they needed to work,” Brodie said of her children.
Brodie taught all of her children how to garden, a skill they still use today.
“None of us appreciated gardening at the time, but all of us children have had a garden as adults,” Lueken said. “It’s a lasting skill.”
Lueken said she hopes to teach her son Daniel, 5, how to garden. Brodie said she still likes the time outside and is proud to see her children carry on the gardening tradition.
Brodie now has 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren and enjoys frequent guests at her home in Maple Ridge. It’s a testament to her emphasis on spending time with her family. Brodie and her husband spent many vacations camping with their family around the state’s beaches.
“I wanted to do things together,” she said.
Lueken remembered one trip in particular where Brodie took her entire 4-H group for a day trip to Seattle. The family only had a truck for transportation, so they built walls and a roof to surround the bed of the truck and had all the kids sit in the back.
“We all piled into the truck,” Lueken remembers. “What an adventure.”
Both Lueken and Brodie had a hard time remembering exactly what activities took place, but that didn’t bother Brodie.
“We had a good time and that’s what’s important,” she said.
Lueken still visits her mother on a daily basis, with her son Daniel carrying out one of the most important lessons she remembers from her mom — to love each other.