Longtime resident reaches 104th
October 2, 2008 · Updated 4:54 PM
Snoqualmie resident Izetta Marie Renton bought her first home in the Valley for $900. Purchased in the 1920s, the house still stands in Snoqualmie today, though she hasn't lived there for years.
"In those days, that was a lot of money," Izetta said.
She celebrated her 104th birthday on Feb. 18. Izetta, born in 1902, has lived in the Upper Valley for about 80 years, coming to Snoqualmie from Orting in her early 20s.
"This [was] very special," said Izetta's personal caregiver Cindy Mallery about the post-centennial birthday.
For her birthday, Izetta - who still lives independently, making her bed and cooking breakfast each morning - and her family members went out to eat and celebrate, said Lin Noah, her 58-year-old granddaughter who lives next door.
"She's quite a person," Noah said.
The meal featured cake with lemon icing; it's her favorite, Noah said.
A lifelong lover of gardening, Izetta and her husband Alonson owned and operated the wholesale Seven Firs Nursery in Snoqualmie near her property where she now lives between Ernie's Grove and the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River. They also ran its retail counterpart in Issaquah until her health forced her to close down both shops about 20 years ago. She specialized in rhododendrons.
She is also a published author of books and magazine articles, as well as a painter.
Noah, who described Izetta as candid, said that "what I've learned is how important a positive attitude is to a healthy life."
Izetta moved to the Upper Valley after marrying her husband, Alonson, who was related to the settlers for whom the city of Renton was named in the 1920s. His family owned land in the Valley and Izetta said they came to the area to invest in land.
Alonson passed away in the 1970s shortly after their 50th anniversary. He marked that anniversary by giving Izetta a diamond ring that remains on her finger to this day.
"It's a lovely ring and I'm going to be buried with it," she said.
Briefly married prior to Alonson at age 17, she has one daughter named Dorothy "Dot" Reichle, 86. Now suffering from dementia, Reichle lives along with other family members in the mobile home next to Izetta's home.
In all, Izetta has three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
She suffered a stroke in the early 2000s, but is otherwise healthy.
"The doctors say she could go on forever," Noah said, noting that on good days, she can identify people in photographs from 95 years ago.
She likes to reminisce, tell stories and keep current, but she can only tolerate a certain amount of company, Noah said.
"Izetta goes through moments of being death-conscious and other moments of being pleasantly surprised at turning 104," she added.
Although, Noah pointed out, "She will say, 'I don't recommend it.' "
Though her eyesight is too poor to read anymore and her doctor advised her to forgo gardening, Mallery said that Izetta enjoys conversations, solitaire and going on weekly "road trips" through town to revisit old memories about the Valley.
She was pulling weeds and gardening until this past summer, Mallery said.
"She's remarkable, actually," Mallery said. "She likes the little pleasures."
The non-religious Izetta said that her ambition of wanting to garden has kept her going.
"That really is her medicine," Mallery said.
She also said that throughout her life, she refrained from smoking, drinking and took as little medicine as possible.
"I'm only doing what anybody could do," she said.
Years ago, Izetta traveled to places as far away as Egypt, China and Austria, searching internationally for new plant and flower varieties to bring back to the states.
She eventually developing her own color variations of rhododendrons that she named after herself, her daughter Dot and her granddaughter, Loretta.
On her most recent road trip, she recalled when there used to be a brothel on the land that is now a field at Mount Si High School, and when Meadowbrook was a thriving town with a meat market, grocery store and shops.
She saw her first airplane in the night sky as a child and had no idea what it was, Mallery said, noting that Izetta was then invited to fly in it after it landed in her neighbor's field.
Private and content to tending to her dog Buffy, Izetta said that major factors to a long life are keeping busy and not running into debt.
Izetta noted that she doesn't want to be remembered for much of anything, saying that she has already left her legacy in her writings and her plant, gardens and flowers.
For Izetta, gardening has been her metaphor for life, Mallery noted about her twilight years.
Each year you get to start anew, she said, adding that even with poor eyesight, Izetta can still spot foliage from just about any distance.
"I've lived so much," Izetta said. "As long as my sight lasts and I [can] see [to] pull weeds, I'll go on."