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Secret to long life: 'beer and broccoli'

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Gertrude Tomminger, a Woodburn resident and lifelong Oregonian, turned 105 last week


INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JULIA COMNES - Tomminger loves traveling abroad and gardening.Gertrude Tomminger, a Woodburn resident and lifelong Oregonian, turned 105 on Dec. 27.

"I'm too stubborn to die," she said.

Tomminger, who is divorced and has survived her only child, lives her life with an attitude of fierce independence.

"I've learned to get along by myself," said Tomminger, who lived alone until she turned 100. She now lives with a caregiver in her house located in Woodburn Estates & Golf.

Born in Hermiston in 1911, Tomminger grew up in Portland. She was raised in a bilingual household: Her parents were from Germany, and they taught Tomminger and her sister how to speak German before they learned to speak English.

But Tomminger doesn't remember much German. After the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, anti-German attitudes prevented Tomminger and her family from speaking the language.

Tomminger's fondest childhood memories include spending time outside: playing in the Laurelhurst Park playground in Portland, visiting her uncle Frank's farm in Redland during the summers and learning how to garden with her grandfather.

Her love of gardening has stuck with her. "I plant anything I can get my hands on," Tomminger said.

She says she learned to drive at a young age — her uncle Frank, the first in the family to own a car, was letting her drive it when she was only 10 years old.

But as a young woman in Portland, her main mode of transportation was the streetcar, which she'd use to travel across town, exploring different parks and visiting friends.

Tomminger, who retired at age 65, had a number of jobs throughout her life. She worked as a salesperson at the Meier & Frank department store in Portland for a while, which she says she enjoyed. "I was working with my friends," she said.

But her favorite job was working as an aide at the Fairview Training Center in Salem, which housed people with developmental disabilities.

"I liked being nice to the older people there," said Tomminger.

Tomminger's son, Francis, was murdered in Woodburn in 1967.

"I don't have sympathy for these murderers," she said.

But Tomminger and her niece, Marie Hinkle, who lives in Springfield, have formed a close bond over the years. They've gone on international trips together, to places like Greece, Turkey, Holland, Germany and Ukraine.

Tomminger can't name a favorite place she's traveled to.

"They're all so different," she said. "Any place I'm able to walk around is interesting to me."

When people ask Tomminger the secret to her longevity, Hinkle said that Tomminger often gives the reply "beer and broccoli."

"I think the beer is from her German background," Hinkle said.

But Tomminger's biggest advice to younger generations is: "Figure out what you'd like to do the best, and go out and do it," she said. "It's how I've tried to live."

Julia Comnes covers all things Woodburn. She can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..