Dancing, no junk food, secrets to Marie Diercks long life

It's Saturday afternoon and Marie Diercks is holding court.

Flanked by balloons that proclaim “Happy Birthday Princess,” she's sitting in a chair smack dab in the middle of the entrance to her condo's clubhouse — all the better to greet her guests who've come from as far as the San Francisco Bay area to celebrate her 100th birthday on Saturday, Dec. 29.

A tiara topped with the milestone number is nestled in Marie's thick auburn tresses — her natural color, mind you. by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Marie Diercks, seated with her boyfriend, Dwight Hale, greets a friend who came to help celebrate her 100th birthday.

“I'm more gray than she is,” laments her youngest daughter, Marilyn Colburn, 73, who lives with Marie in her Gresham condo.

Sitting next to Marie is her boyfriend, Dwight Hale, 78, also of Gresham.

“Mom is a cougar,” jokes Margie Markstaller of Sun River, Ariz., who at 76 is just two years younger than her mom's boyfriend.

So what do her daughters think of their mother taking up with a younger man?

“I love it!” says Margie. “She told him her age and he just didn't believe it. He thought she was kidding him.”

Dwight didn't care how old Marie was.

Still doesn't.

“Age is just a number,” he says, while he and Marie tap their feet to the beat of Betty Reed and the Jamboree Fiddlers playing dance tunes for Marie's party.

He was smitten when they met six or seven years ago while dancing at the Scappoose Senior Center. “I asked her to marry me and she said no,” Dwight recalls, adding that Marie said their age gap was too wide for them to be married.

“That's just crossing the line!” she told him.

They still go dancing at local senior centers four to five days a week.

Dancing, good genes and clean living are the secrets to Marie's longevity.

“I don't eat junk food,” she says. She doesn't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Her only weakness is chocolate.

“Candy,” she replies, when asked what she wants for her birthday.

Plus longevity runs in the family. Her father lived to be 96 and her mother lived to be 94.

Marie was born in Milwaukie on Jan 8, 1913, in a two-room house her carpenter father built on two acres north of where the Clackamas Town Center now sits. The house later became the barn when her dad built a much larger home for the growing Peterson family, which grew to include seven children. Marie was the second OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - A photo of Marie Diercks as a young woman.

During the Great Depression, she married Roy Balliew and had two daughters. They each had four children — all with names starting with the letter M. Her husband died in 1990. A few years later, she ran into an old friend who she knew from her days as a student at Wicheta Grammar School in Oregon City. A class photo from 1925 shows little Marie in the front row, on the far right, with Hayden Diercks on the far left in the back third row.

In the 1990s, they made headlines in the Gresham Outlook, when the couple got married. Marie was 83 and moved to Gresham to live with her groom.

They had five wonderful years together, years spent dancing at senior centers across the Portland-metro area, before Hayden died.

Through dancing, she created a network of people who pleaded with her to keep coming to local dances. She did and the next thing she knew, Dwight Hale had filled up her dance card. They've been together ever since, he OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Marie Diercks spent the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 29, with friends as she celebrated her 100th birthday.

In addition to eating right and good, clean living, Marie also attributes her long life to her laid back, no-worries attitude.

“Things are going to happen whether you worry about it or not,” she says.

With that proclamation made, Marie turns to her sweetie, flashes him a megawatt smile, and taps her toes to the beat of the music.

There's dancing, and more living, to do.

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