At 100, Oak Harbor woman reflects on busy life

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30.

At 100, Frances Schultz lived through the Depression, World War II, the expansion of the United States and, now, a pandemic.

Schultz joined the 100-years-and-over club on March 30. She has lived in Oak Harbor since 1955 and currently lives in Harbor Towers.

Schultz was born in Santa Cruz, Calif., after the end of the Spanish flu pandemic. She didn’t have to live through that one but said she’s excited for the coronavirus pandemic to end. She has already been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over, that’s for sure,” she said.

She was still in high school during the Great Depression and recalled a meal of meat and potatoes priced at just 75 cents.

After high school, she went to San Jose State University for a year and later went to dental nurse training.

She met her first husband at a dance in San Francisco, although she knew him in high school. Herbert Tolbert, also known as “Red” for his auburn hair, was in the Navy and getting ready to ship out in a few days.

She was in a relationship with someone else at the time, but when Tolbert walked her home from the dance, her plans changed.

“He was a nice man,” she said of her other beau. “But when you meet the one, you know.”

After a whirlwind romance, the two married in April 1942, and Red went to fight in World War II.

After the war, the couple had two daughters and moved “up and down” the West Coast, Schultz recalled.

The family was stationed in Adak, Alaska before the icy expanse gained statehood.

The community was allowed to call home once a month using a one-way radio and had to practice evacuation drills because of the threat of the neighboring Soviet Union.

Despite the isolation, Schultz enjoyed living in the territory and remembered the huge salmon and king crab, even helping a neighbor chase one of the large crustaceans in the kitchen after it escaped the cooking pot.

“You became one big family,” Schultz said.

Her family finally came to Oak Harbor in the summer of 1955 when Red was stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. They had never heard of Whidbey Island.

Schultz remembered briefly living in a Quonset hut and Navy housing before moving into a house in town.

“We liked it and thought it was a good place to raise our girls,” she said.

She noted how much the city has grown. Back then, she remembered there being one stoplight near where Chimes barbershop once stood.

“When we moved here, I don’t remember any apartment buildings,” she recalled.

They became charter members of the Whidbey Presbyterian Church in 1964. Schultz worked for Koetje Insurance and Real Estate for 28 years as a bookkeeper.

She also volunteered extensively throughout her life — with Meals on Wheels, the March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity and Oak Harbor Public Schools, just to name a few.

Her daughter, Connie Van Dyke, is impressed with her mother’s generosity.

“I admired her staying connected and staying involved in so many things,” Van Dyke said.

Schultz was widowed in 1972 and later married Alva Schultz. The couple traveled extensively, and Shultz said she even did some solo traveling after she was widowed a second time.

“I took off,” she said.

She rode an elephant in Thailand and a camel off the coast of Spain. She never missed a flight.

Her advice to future travelers?

“Just go and have fun. I never had a problem making friends,” she said.

When asked if she ever thought she would live to be 100 years old, Schultz was quick to reply: “Nope.”

In fact, she said she thought she’d only see 97. Once, she and her uncle got tickets for a helicopter ride in Alaska because he wanted to “stomp around on a glacier.”

He was in his 90s, and that’s when she thought about her own prospects.

“And yet, here I am.”

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times