Photo by Lee Ryan
Ed Witzke celebrated his 100th birthday on Jan. 21

Not famous, but Ed Witzke has lived a noble 100 years

When most of us think of someone living to be 100, we might imagine a pale figure staring at the ceiling, waiting for the Lord to finally come.

This does not describe Ed Witzke. In fact, he’s in such good health, they just did hip surgery on him and he’s already up and walking! He also has fewer wrinkles than most 70 year olds. If his genes are ever up for auction, I’m first in line!

I would never have known about Ed, except for the love and dedication of his good friend, Sue Love, who comes and plays cribbage with him, most every day. Her husband was his paperboy, years ago, so they just kind of became family.

About their cribbage games, Ed grinned and said, “I usually win. She’s an unlucky girl”, but he also mentioned that she claims that he cheats.
Edward Julius Witzke was born on Jan. 21, 1912 near the little German town of Bashaw in Alberta, Canada.

He lived on a farm and was the youngest of six kids, so he led a pretty charmed life –- especially as the baby of the family. However, that changed at the age of three, when he and his slightly older brother were out walking near the slough.

It was winter and all of the ponds were frozen over – or so they thought. “I guess some muskrats had created an opening in the ice. I fell through and plunk - right to the bottom.”

His eyes widened; “My brother had to run up to the house, find our mother, then she had to find the farmhands and we figure I was under water for a good twenty minutes”.

“The coldness of the water must have just rushed right to my heart and preserved me. One of the farmhands, Cap Reed, pumped on my chest long after they said that I was a goner.”

Just a few years ago, Ed went up to Bashaw and they were still talking about “that little boy that came back to life.”

I commented, ‘In a hundred years, you’ve seen a lot of changes, haven’t you? How are things different’, “Well, we were pretty poor. I remember when my brother turned nine he got an apple for his birthday. That was a big deal. Apples were mighty rare up in Canada. He shared it with me.”

Ed went on, “We all moved down to San Diego, because my older brothers told us about how the fruit was just hangin’ on the trees. Dad couldn’t find work, though, so we moved to Seattle in 1922.”

I asked Ed how Seattle had changed. He said, “Well, for one thing, it was just a big town, back then. The Smith Tower wasn’t even up, yet. The biggest thrill was the automobiles. Back in Bashaw, we only had one truck and the rest of us all used horses to get around.”

I found out that Ed took lessons at the Fred Astaire School of Dance, which is where he met Patsy, his wife. He was so shy that she had to ask him! They married on July 4th, 1937 and Ed said, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. We got along so well. It was a dream thing.” Patsy is now gone, but she still shines in his eyes.

I asked Ed the best advice he could give to anyone and he popped right back with an answer, “The first thing is that you don’t do the wrong thing, even if it’s small. It’ll wear on you the rest of your life. The church teaches you the rights from the wrongs. Keep busy with honest things and hang out with the right people –- good people”.

Ed kept his own advice, because he was living at home, mowing his own lawn and caring for multiple fruit tree and a garden when he was in his 90s.

As I was checking over my notes, this soft-spoken, humble gentleman wondered if there was really anything interesting enough about him to write about. For myself, I can say that it’s pure pleasure to just be in the presence of someone so genuine, transparent and wholesome.

He isn’t a national award-winner or famous for some great feat, but he’s exactly the type of person who makes up the many noble seniors that built this nation. And he spent 100 years doing it, too! Happy 100th Birthday Ed!

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