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At 100 years young, Van Gordon still has plenty of get up and go

It was a birthday party every child would clamor for — a chance to celebrate at a fire station with a crew of firefighters.

Such parties are few and far between, since firefighters are usually out of the station responding to the multiple calls that come in throughout any given evening.

But for one Bremerton woman, the firefighters of Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue’s Station 51 ‘A’ Crew in Silverdale went out of their way to make her birthday special.

Marion Van Gordon celebrated turning 100 years young on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Firefighters Scott Deschryver and Rick O’Rourke bought her flowers and a cake in honor of reaching the elite milestone.

“We were going to get candles, but Safeway didn’t have enough,” Deshryver joked.

“When we were buying the cake, people were asking us why they couldn’t have their birthday party at the fire station,” O’Rourke said. “I told them that when you’re 100 years old, you can have your birthday party at the fire station, too.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 875 people in Washington are centenarians. The 2000 census was the first to enumerate ages over 85.

Deschryver said he and O’Rourke met Van Gordon five years ago, when they responded to a respiratory distress call. After seeing her difficult living situation, he said they helped her move to her own place at Canterberry Manor in Bremerton. She now lives in her own apartment at a care home in East Bremerton.

“She calls us her ‘grandkids’ and we call her ‘grandma,’” Deschryver said. “I take her shopping for groceries and we routinely go out to the Pancake Breakfast House or Baskin-Robbins.”

Van Gordon was born Nov. 6, 1901 in Indiana and credits her faith and a prayer each morning for her longevity.

“If you take Jesus with you wherever you go and lay your life in his hands every day, you won’t have any problems,” said Van Gordon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With a sharp memory, Van Gordon told the firefighters tales of meeting Theodore Roosevelt, the first time she encountered indoor plumbing and electricity, living through the Great Depression, learning to ride a horse and her interest in guns.

“You should see me shoot a prairie dog,” she said. “I got to be such a good shot — I could put up an ear of corn and shoot the kernels off. Now, I can’t see the corn at all.

“I still like guns. A gun is not dangerous in itself — it’s the person behind it.”

Politics have been a life-long interest of Van Gordon’s. She said she’s met several presidents, and helped with Ronald Reagan’s successful presidential campaign while she was in her late 70s.

“I’ll vote as long as they’ll let me,” she said, adding she now mails her ballot from home.

Van Gordon said she still likes to get out as much as she can.

“Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t do things,” she said. “You have to take life as you find it.”

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