PENDLETON - All weeks are busy for Rita Kirkpatrick, but the coming week will be busier for her than most.
Kirkpatrick, born May 3, 1905, will celebrate her birthday several times during the week. Mayor Phil Houk has designated Tuesday, her 100th birthday, Rita Joerger Kirkpatrick Day in Pendleton.
She'll celebrate with family and friends from 2-4 p.m. today at St. Mary's Catholic Church parish hall and from 2-3 p.m. Tuesday at Heritage Station Museum where a short 2:30 p.m. program will be presented in her honor. She'll have dinner Wednesday in Walla Walla with longtime friend Beth Warner.
The Pendleton Women's Club will honor her at their noon luncheon meeting Thursday in the Vert Little Theater.
"I haven't the slightest idea," Kirkpatrick, the last of seven children, said when asked her secret to such a long and rewarding life. "I surprise myself. I'm just very fortunate."
The petite centenarian, whose parents were married in Switzerland before immigrating to the United States in 1890 and settling in Pendleton in 1893, never learned to drive, but walks wherever she needs to go. She usually wears at least one piece of clothing that is pink, her very favorite color, and is still active in local organizations.
She's a member of the Dirt Dabblers Garden Club, Pioneer Club, Frontier Collectors Club, St. Anthony Hospital Auxiliary, Women's Club, St. Mary's Catholic Church and is a charter member of the Umatilla County Historical Society where she volunteers as a greeter.
As a member of the Hospital Auxiliary, she and her husband, Chester, volunteered at the gift shop for many years. She still calls members to remind them of meetings.
She was secretary for the Frontier Collectors for 20 plus years.
She took on the roles of an immigrant girl and a dance hall girl in the Happy canyon night pageant for 18 years. She also remembers selling "bucks" upstairs at the old arena on Southwest Emigrant before the pageant moved to its current location.
After a Happy Canyon dance, she met her late husband while he was taking a break from his job on the "big wheel." They became engaged 14 years later when Chester told her he wanted to enlist in the Navy.
He told her, she said, that he wanted to give her a ring before he left so the soldiers at the Pendleton field would know she was taken. They were married two weeks later, Sept. 9, 1942. Nine days after that he was enlisted in the Navy and gone for three years.
She graduated from St. Joseph Academy, attended Oregon State University - then Oregon Agricultural College - and graduated from Benke Walker Business College in Portland.
When she returned to Pendleton she worked first for Raley, Raley and Warner Attorneys for $50 per month, then because she was offered a $10 a month raise went to work for Hartman Abstract owned by James S. Jones that became the Oregon Title Insurance Company.
She worked there 36 years until the business sold. She retired at the age of 68 from her job working for Judge William Wells. She still manages the two six-unit apartment buildings she and her husband renovated and maintained, does all of her own "book work," keeps her house immaculately clean - she hates messes - and since, her husband's death Jan. 19, 1984, does most of the yard work including spading, planting and weeding.
"I can't do as much as I used to," she said Wednesday. "I have some help with the mowing."