North Bend resident celebrates 90th birthday

April 14 was just another day for North Bend resident Catherine "Kay" Kohlruss, who celebrated her 90th birthday this past Friday.

"To me, it's no big deal. I'm just a day older than I was yesterday," Kay said.

For her family, it was reason to celebrate her life and her more than 60 years of involvement in the Valley.

They threw her an open house celebration at the Mount Si Senior Center last Saturday and invited community members to reminisce about, and celebrate, Kay's time in the Valley, her independent spirit and her 90th birthday.

"The party went wonderful," said Darla Kohlruss, Kay's daughter-in-law who has lived next door for seven years.

Darla said that about 45 people attended.

"She had a wonderful time," Darla added. "There were a lot of friends and family there."

Living in North Bend since 1944, Kay still drives her own car, weeds her garden and enjoys reading the newspaper and novels that "aren't obnoxious," such as classic westerns.

She was in four bowling leagues until last year and she still bowls once a week as part of a Bellevue team. Her only wish is that she could still mow her own lawn.

The 90-year-old said she has never smoked or drank alcohol to excess and has had no major health issues.

"She's healthier than any of us," said Darla.

Born in Montana on a homestead, Kay's parents separated while she was young and she moved with her mother and siblings to Wyoming and Illinois before moving back to Montana for high school.

The middle sibling to two older brothers and two younger sisters (all deceased), Kay made her way back to Wyoming and married Walter Kohlruss in 1938 at age 21. Walter has been deceased for 15 years.

"It was just one of those things," she said about how the courtship occurred.

The couple had a daughter, Bea, now 67, and a son, Lynn, now 65, who is married to Darla.

While Kay was a homemaker raising her children, Walter worked on building airbases during World War II, a job that took the family to Utah, Nevada and California before they settled in Everett to be with family that had migrated to the Pacific Northwest.

Living in Everett at the time, Walter took a job in plumbing, eventually moving the family to the Silver Creek neighborhood in North Bend to open up Valley Plumbing and Heating in the 1940s.

She still lives in the same house today.

Operating the company until the early 1970s, the couple also owned Mt. Si Bowl for 10 years, from 1964-1974.

"Walt finally decided he was old enough to retire," Kay said about why the family sold their businesses.

"When we moved here, the only other place [nearby] was a house across the creek," she said, noting the expansion that the city has seen during her time living in the area.

"I used to think it was a friendly little town and now we've grown into a city," she said.

Kay said she began to see a housing boom in the mid 1980s.

Kay also volunteered with the Campfire Girls for about 40 years, retiring from the organization in 1987. There was even a time in the 1950s when she juggled raising her children with serving as a Campfire leader and a Boy Scout den mother.

"I just liked kids," she said.

She also worked on the committee that started North Bend's Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activity Center.

In 1954, Kay first picked up a bowling ball on the insistence of a friend who was joining a league.

Since then, she has amassed an all-time high score of 260 (out of a perfect 300).

"I just like to do it," she said, adding that she will continue to bowl as long as she is able.

Kay said it is difficult sometimes to know that many of her close friends and family are deceased, some dying too soon. But she has a new crop of family to keep her interactive, including two grandchildren, one step-granddaughter and five great grandchildren.

For her birthday, Darla said the family baked a cake to celebrate.

Keeping busy seems to be a key process to Kay's good health, said Darla.

"She almost always tries to fix and do things herself, and then calls [if she can't]," she said. "She's very independent."

Kay said she has no regrets in life and feels she has met the goals she wanted to achieve.

"I think I've done enough," she said.

For Darla, Kay represents a positive image of healthy living.

"She's my hero," she said. "I sure hope at 90, I can be as healthy and happy."

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