‘Very sharp, feisty and positive” is how Teri Daneker describes her aunt, Dorothy Mann, who turns 106 years old on Thursday.
The long-time Aberdeen resident will mark the milestone with a birthday celebration on Dec. 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at United Christian Church.
The event announcement simply states “Come have cake and conversation with Dorothy!”
Daneker pointed out that Mann loves going out to eat, having visitors to her home, and enjoys going to see family and friends. She’s interested in the world around her — near and far. She listens to radio and television. Macular degeneration has made it too difficult for her to watch what’s on the TV screen, however.
Mann also truly enjoys parties and involving herself in a good conversation. She doesn’t even bristle much when the subject of politics comes up.
“It’s a pretty contentious topic these days,” said Daneker, who stepped in and advised her aunt not to say who she voted for in the presidential election this time around.
Mann did have one thing to say about the presidential election — the Electoral College ought to be eliminated.
“People don’t always vote that way,” she remarked.
Mann also made it a point at the beginning of this year to attend one of the first Aberdeen City Council meetings presided over by a newly elected Mayor Erik Larson. She led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mann was The Daily World Citizen of the Year recipient in 1995. Her brother, Lynn Daneker Sr., was honored with the same award several years earlier. She and her niece, who has been long married to Lynn Daneker Jr., noted that Mann and Daneker Sr. remain the only pair of siblings to be honored in this manner.
The city also honored Mann when she turned 100 years old by giving her the key to the city.
It was a different set of keys that she gave up that same year when she stopped driving after 70 years behind the wheel. She had a perfect driving record.
“Many people drive who shouldn’t and they fight to keep their keys in their hands. Not Dorothy. She gave it up herself,” Daneker said.
Mann’s niece also said it was hard for her aunt to wait for people to pick her up because she’s so independent and always wanting to get up and go. She has since adjusted to not driving herself around and remains enthusiastic about getting out of the house.
Mann didn’t start driving until she was 30 years old. She walked places much of the time before that. In her youth she rode a bus to and from school and a horse to and from the grocer to pick up things for her mother.
Long life runs in the maternal side of Mann’s family. Her grandmother lived into her late 90s and her mother lived to be 103.
She fondly remembers that her mother created square dancing outfits.
“My mom made everything, she was a beautiful seamstress,” she said.
Her husband, Raymond, called the local square dances where many costumes her mother had sewn were worn. The square dances were the first ones held on Grays Harbor.
Mann, whose maiden name is Daneker, was born in Kansas in 1910. She was the oldest of three children. Her two younger brothers, Lynn and Emory, were born in Elma after their parents moved west. The Danekers returned to live in Kansas again for a short time when she was still a girl. It was an unpleasant experience.
“You can have Kansas,” she said with an exaggerated sour expression to further express her distaste.
She married Raymond Mann in September 1928. Their ceremony was conducted at the fair and the local crowd sharing their happiness only added to the joyfulness of the event.
“I got married in the front of the grandstand. We were the last ones who got married out there,” she said. “We were the featured performance.”
Mann graduated from J.M. Weatherwax High in June in 1928. She spent nine months attending business school and ended up working 25 years as an office manager for Truck and Tractor.
Mann used a bonus earned working there to buy one of her most favorite possessions: the piano that sits in her living room today. She has trouble seeing the sheet music so she plays songs from memory.
Playing for people living in Pacific Care and Rehabilitation facility in Hoquiam was another activity that gave her pleasure. Daneker said her aunt was the unofficial activity director there.
“I play piano for all the old people there,” she said with a sly smile on her face.
Daneker also said her aunt possesses a great sense of humor.
Mann stopped playing there fairly recently and wants to do it again when she’s able. A leg injury months ago required 26 stitches and has slowed her down. It takes longer for her skin to heal that it did during her younger days.
“She wanted to just cover it with a paper towel,” Daneker said with an incredulous look on her face.
Mann suffered a more serious health scare a few years ago after an infection. She was taking a bath when she felt too weak to get out of the tub. A relative figured out something was wrong after telephoning her three times and receiving no reply. After being stranded in the tub for 36 hours she was rescued, hospitalized and had to stay at a local care center while she regained her strength before she could return home.
Mann was in her early 40s when she decided to start her own business, “Mann’s Floral.” She eventually added food catering and was what would be described today as a wedding coordinator.
Daneker and her husband, Lynn Jr., had their rehearsal dinner and wedding planned by Mann. Being able to see their 50th anniversary in July “made me very happy,” Mann said. “I wouldn’t have missed that.”
Raymond’s death in his late 60s — they had been married 47 years — resulted in Mann establishing a group for other women who had lost their husbands, the Widowers Birthday Club. She managed it for more than 30 years.
Mann has actively involved herself in an array of other community activities over the years, including the Bird Club and her church.
Along with being curious, filled with good humor and living a full and active life, Mann said she thinks she has lived for so long because she didn’t smoke or drink alcohol and ate mostly healthy foods. She tended her own garden until the age of 102 and consumed a lot of vegetables.
She takes just one prescription medication to control her blood pressure and only uses a walker because she said, “I don’t want to fall again. No more injuries.”
Though she had no children of her own, new friends have come into her life and helped filled voids left over the years when family members and friends have died. Her younger brother Emory died when he was only in his early 60s.
Her joy and gratitude also greatly contributed to her long life, Daneker added.
There will be white and chocolate cakes served at her upcoming birthday party. She’ll likely not overdue it that day because she tries to not overindulge, especially in sweets.