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100 reasons to be thankful

Medford resident Pearl Teeter treasures spending time with her family, but she frowned upon all the fuss her family made about this particular Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving marked Teeter's 100th birthday, an occasion that brought together about 40 of her family and friends to celebrate the landmark event.

"What is all this anyway?" Teeter said, unsettled by all the attention.

"I don't feel unusual," she said of her 100th birthday. "I feel great."

Teeter's good health allows her to continue to live on her own with her cat, Tiger, in a north Medford home she moved into nearly 40 years ago. Two of her daughters and a caregiver check in on her daily and do shopping and other chores.

She reads the news as well as books, does crossword puzzles, watches TV and regularly defeats her daughters at matches of Scrabble. Until recently, she also played the piano.

"I read everything I can get a hold of," she said.

Teeter was born Nov. 26, 1909, in Bothell, Wash.

Her early life was marked by tragedy. Her parents, Mathilda and Martin Johnson, who had emigrated from Norway through Ellis Island, died while Teeter was still a child.

Mathilda died of tuberculosis when Teeter was an infant. About four years later, Martin, who was a fisherman, put Teeter and her five siblings up for adoption because his health was failing, and he couldn't care for them. He died when Teeter was 9.

Teeter's fortunes changed when she was adopted by Archie and Julia Allan, of Anacortes, Wash.

She graduated from Anacortes High School and was a member of the Torch Honor Society.

She was one of the relatively small number of women at the time who went on to college.

"I was privileged," Teeter said.

She studied English and music at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. While playing the piano in recitals with vocal students, she met a young baritone named Kenneth Teeter who eventually would become her husband.

She graduated in 1932 in the throes of the Great Depression. Seeking work as a teacher, she could find no jobs, so she returned to school. She enrolled in Business College in Seattle, where she reunited with Kenneth.

They began to date and eventually married in December of 1935.

The couple moved to Medford in 1943 because Kenneth was transferred for his work as a Texaco distributor.

She raised her four daughters — Jeannine Napuunoa of Honolulu, Hawaii; Sylvia Parks of Central Point; Linda O'Malley of Medford; and Ginny Slifcak, of Woodstoch, Ga., — in an east Medford house on East Main Street and Willamette Avenue. All four girls attended Roosevelt Elementary School.

She now has 14 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

At age 42, Teeter took up golf.

Parks said Teeter went to the course with Kenneth and on a whim, picked up a club and took a swing.

"She decided she could do that, too," Parks said. The game became something they frequently did together, she said.

Teeter continued to play golf until her late 80s.

She said she doesn't do anything special to stay healthy. On Wednesday night, she ate pizza with her granddaughter. Parks said she also eats a regular supply of ice cream.

Until about two years ago, she took a walk every day, Parks said.

Staying active could contribute to Teeter's longevity, but she also has some personality traits that might give her an advantage, her daughters said.

"She taught me how to keep a good sense of humor, which is the most important thing," Slifcak said. "I think she just has really good genes, and she is as stubborn as all get-out."

Teeter said the most important thing in life is "to be happy.

"And put your garbage out on time," she said as she watched a garbage truck stop in front of her house.

"I think a lot of it has to do with appreciating the little things in life because that's what she does," Parks said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

From left to right, Jeannine Napuunoa of Honolulu, Hawaii, Linda O'Malley of Medford, Rachel Nisley of Roy, Wash., and Pearl Teeter of Medford celebrate Teeter's 100th birthday on Thanksgiving. - Jim Craven