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Busy defines 95-year-old Elsie Battaglia

The King City resident is a virtual whirlwind as she constantly moves from one activity to another
by: Jaime Valdez, ALMOST A PRO — Elsie Battaglia enjoys the view from her balcony looking down on the King City Golf Course, which she plays on a regular basis when she’s in town.

KING CITY - Elsie Warnock Battaglia, who turned 95 Dec. 12, hesitates to talk about one of the reasons why she stays so young.

But her secret is out - 15 years ago, she heard Paul Harvey say that if you eat nine white raisins soaked in gin every morning, you won't feel the aches and pains of arthritis.

'I'm not in any pain,' she said recently. 'All my friends have pain. I only take vitamins. When I had X-rays taken, they said, 'You're full of arthritis.' I believe the raisins help.'

Battaglia hasn't slowed down at all. She started golfing when she was 70 and won the Palm Springs Senior Olympics golf tournament in 1992.

Besides playing golf, she enjoys having friends over for lunch and dinner and playing with her Abyssinian cat, Smokey.

Battaglia was born and raised in Boring until her family moved to Portland when she was in high school. She also spent one year of high school in Gresham.

She met her first husband, Bob Warnock, at a high school sock hop.

'He was playing in the band and as cute as he could be,' Battaglia said. 'We hung around the bandstand, and he asked for my phone number and my girlfriend's number.

'He called at 10 that night and was parked in the street. He had a brand-new Chrysler convertible, and before he left, he asked me to marry him. I said yes, and six months later we got married. I was 16.'

When Battaglia was only 23 and the mother of two small children, she was widowed after Bob died of heart problems from rheumatic fever.

'If he had lived six more months, he could have gotten penicillin,' Battaglia said. 'His dad owned a 65-unit apartment complex, and we had managed it. I continued to manage it after he died.'

After being widowed for eight years, she married Sam Battaglia, and they were married for 21 years.

They started buying and fixing up properties, including apartment complexes.

'I've lived in 25 different places,' Battaglia said.

When that ended, Battaglia worked for Rudy Wilhelm, owner of warehouses in Milwaukie.

'I became his messenger and started infiltrating his business, moving up to become accounts supervisor,' Battaglia said. 'I had a nice few years before I retired.'

She always kept a house at the beach and moved to Long Beach where she loved to dig for clams and fish for salmon.

Then Battaglia moved to the Highlands in King City for 10 years before moving into her current home overlooking the King City Golf Course.

When Battaglia was around 30, she joined Sigma Phi Gamma, a philanthropic sorority. 'It was a good place for me to be,' she said. 'I jumped in with both feet.'

In the 66 years that she has been a member, Battaglia, who was president in the mid-1950s, has only missed one international convention.

And the reason? 'It was on Mackinac Island that year where they didn't allow autos, and I thought it sounded boring,' she said. 'I was young and frisky and thought, I can't get a cab and go to a nightclub.'

Since Oregon didn't have a chapter, Battaglia became one of the charter members of the local group.

'I love people - I have them coming out my ears,' she said. 'I golf on Wednesdays with the ladies or play in scrambles, but I'm down to two days a week.'

For 23 years, Battaglia has been wintering in Desert Hot Springs, 'right on the golf course.'

'I have lots of friends down there,' she said. 'When it's dull two days in a row, I'm depressed. Every day down there, I wake up to bright sun.'

Battaglia's sons, who are now 76 and 72, both graduated from Reed College and had successful careers, and she has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

'My only frailty is macular degeneration,' Battaglia said. 'But I have a reading aid and cook all the time.'

As for listening to books on tape, 'I haven't gotten that desperate yet,' Battaglia said.

She got her driver's license renewed a year ago, 'but I only drive around King City and the Tigard area,' she said. 'I was so sure I wouldn't get my license. The man told me to look into the box and read the third line, and I said, 'I can't read it.' He gave me my license anyway.

'I stay busy. I exercise. I have a pick-up thing,' she added, rolling up a sleeve to show off her biceps. 'I have a bicycle in the garage, and I go to Curves three times a week. I've always been physically active. I eat well but small.'

For Battaglia's 90th birthday, there was a sit-down dinner for 125 people.

As for plans for her 100th in five years, 'we haven't gotten to that one yet,' she said.