Ask Lionel Domreis how he made it to be 102 years old, and he'll joke, "Well, the first thing I did, I had to get born."
More than a century since that notable achievement, the Tigard resident is still going strong.
Domreis attributes his long life to constantly consuming several foods, among them yams and mixed vegetables, which he has convinced his retirement home to serve him daily. He's never smoked, he says, and he doesn't drink alcohol.
Domreis' father was well-versed in health and nutrition, and the younger Domreis began attending similar classes when he was only 10 years old. He said he remembers his father passing on what he had learned in his health classes. Among other lessons: Red meat is "poison." Eat fish or poultry instead.
On Friday, April 23, Domreis received a surprise birthday party in his room at Bonaventure of Tigard, an assisted living and senior living facility.
Surrounding by a few well-wishers, Domreis told a few stories. He said he was born in Edmonton, Canada, during an especially cold month. As it was told to him, the temperatures there dropped to 40 degrees below zero that first month he was alive, and there was little heat on the family farm where he lived.
"It was so cold, my mother had to hold me all day and all night," said Domreis, who has been a Bonaventure of Tigard resident since 2016, and has lived in King City and Summerfield at various times during his life.
Domreis went on to serve in World War II in the 41st Infantry (Sunset) Division, which saw action in New Guinea and the Philippines. In the war, he was a machine-gunner, watching for enemy planes.
How many did he end up shooting down?
"Not many," Domreis replied, adding that the goal was to keep those planes from flying lower than 10,000 feet, where they could bomb or strafe Allied positions or torpedo their boats. "And I ruined my ears, so I'm known as a good loud speaker."
Domreis received a business degree from the University of Oregon and attended the law school there for more than a year.
But locally, his real claim to fame was in helping to convince King City developer Ron Sorenson to build the King City retirement community, instead of creating a traditional subdivision, according to an article in the Regal Courier. He had a major hand in the development of the Summerfield community as well.
"He was in real estate at that time," Nanette Williams, Domreis' friend and caretaker, said of Domreis' business ventures. "He's very proud of King City, getting that going."
Domreis has also self-published numerous works of fiction, which take up almost an entire shelf of his bookcase. The novels contain "no dirty words," added Domreis, a devout Christian.
Bill Gerkin, a member of the King City Lions Club, said Domreis has been a member of the organization since 1987. He says the 102-year-old is "one of a kind."
"My prediction for you when you turned 100 was that you were going to live until 105. So you got three more years to go, young man," Gerkin told Domreis during Friday's party. "You're a tough old bird."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story's headline contained a typographic error in the subject's name. His name is Lionel Domreis. The headline has been corrected.
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