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An Oregon resident since back in 1962, Alice Whitley helped raise 11 children

COURTESY PHOTO: ALTA LYNCH - Scappoose resident Alice Whitley (center) was surrounded by family, friends and supporters when she celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday, July 22, at Columbia Care Center.Scappoose resident Alice Whitley has seen a lot in her long life.

After growing up during the Great Depression, she lived through World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She's seen the invention of television, personal computers, the Internet and cellphones.

She's seen women move into almost every prominent role in American society, and she's seen minorities gain rights and acceptance and success.

Last week, however, Whitley saw something she'd never seen before — her 100th birthday.

Whitley, who lives at Columbia Care Center, celebrated her 100th on Wednesday, July 22, and she did it grand style.

There were visits — socially distanced in the coronavirus pandemic era — from the Columbia County Sheriff's office, Columbia County Commissioner Alex Tardif, State Sen. Betsy Johnson, family and friends. There were balloons and cards and flowers and cake. Make that cakes — three of them.

According Alta Lynch — the ninth of Whitley's 11 children — "Alice wants to thank all the people who sent birthday cards to 'an old lady they don't even know.' She is humbled by the outpouring of her community."

COURTESY PHOTO: ALTA LYNCH - Scappoose resident Alice Whitley was showered with gifts, visits, balloons, flowers and cakes in celebration of her 100th birthday on Wednesday, July 22.Whitley was born July 22, 1920, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She met Ganem "Kurt" Cartwright at a dance in 1936 and they married Aug. 27, 1938. Together, they had 11 children, including seven boys (five of them Vietnam veterans) and four girls.

In January 1962, the family moved from Wisconsin to Oregon. Over the years, Whitley has experienced vast changes, from the addition of all the modern conveniences, from seeing milk delivered by horse and wagon to modern cars, to the predominance of electricity and indoor plumbing.

After Kurt passed away in 1977, she married Robert Whitley (a World War I veteran) in 1981. In the last half of her century, she traveled, taught various classes for seniors, and indulged in her love of dancing, music and Scrabble. She has successfully beaten all of her grandchildren in Scrabble (at least those brave enough to play her).

The fact that she reached her 100th birthday was a pleasant surprise, too. Approximately three years ago, Whitley wasn't expected to live. She was totally bedridden, placed on hospice and then moved to Columbia Care.

But she survived that episode — with the help of the staff at Columbia Care, Lynch said — her health rebounded and she got to enjoy her latest and greatest birthday.

"Without the folks at Columbia Care, she would not be here today celebrating her 100th birthday," Lynch said. "She said it was the best first day of her life."

The celebration continued on Saturday, July 25, with the arrival of Whitley's niece and other family members from California, Idaho, Washington and Central Oregon, and FaceTime visits from some of Lynch's other siblings.

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