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Turning 100

Dorothy Wustrack's three-digit birthday gives 100
by: lori hall Dorothy Wustrack turned 100 on Sept. 12. She is a resident at Tanner Spring Assisted Living in West Linn.

Dorothy Wustrack turned 100 on Monday. When asked about the big event, she said, 'I can't picture it.'

It's hard for most anyone to imagine living 100 years. But Dorothy Wustrack has made the most of every day of the last century.

She moved to Tanner Spring Assisted Living in West Linn in 2006.

'She's been a real life-force for us here at Tanner Spring,' said Activities Director Patrick Culls.

Her health has declined recently, but Dorothy Wustrack's zest and love for life is still vibrant.

'She does have a wit,' Culls said.

Her son, Karl Wustrack, 67, of West Linn, shared a bit about his mom's life.

She was born Sept. 12, 1911, in Milwaukee, Wisc. She was the oldest child with two sisters and two brothers. Though they all lived long lives, Dorothy Wustrack is the last surviving of her siblings.

Her sense of adventure and her strong personality were apparent at an early age. As a young girl, around age 9 or 10, Dorothy Wustrack's mother asked her to bring lunch to her uncle one day. Her mother instructed her to take the car bridge across the river and not the railroad bridge, which was a faster but a more dangerous route.

The girl ignored her mother's words and started across the railroad bridge. When a train approached, she was forced to jump from the bridge and into the river below. She managed to keep the lunch dry, however, by holding it above her head.

Back when she was growing up, women had few career choices - secretary, nurse or teacher. She wanted to become a teacher. At the time, recruiters for secretarial schools would often visit homes of girls and offer money to families if their daughters enrolled in the school.

When Dorothy Wustrack heard a recruiter speaking with her father, she broke down in tears, declaring that she wanted to be a teacher, said Karl Wustrack. So her dad kicked the man out of the house.

Dorothy Wustrack followed her career choice and became a teacher in a one-room school, driving a Model T through the snowy winters.

Shortly after, she met her future husband, Otto Wustrack, a young man from Germany.

Together they lived all across the United States and traveled the world. They lived in Tennessee; Rochester, N.Y. (where Karl was born); Chicago; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Portland. Their worldly travels included New Zealand, Germany, China and South Africa.

'We loved travel,' Dorothy Wustrack said.

The couple was also active in sports. Otto Wustrack was a cross-country runner as a student, Dorothy Wustrack played basketball and softball and they both enjoyed downhill skiing. But her true lifelong love was tennis, which she played until she had both knees replaced in her 70s.

The couple combined its love of travel and sports by attending the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

The couple eventually moved to the Southwest Portland area around 1955. Dorothy Wustrack continued her career as a fourth-grade teacher at Ainsworth Elementary School in Portland.

'I loved that fourth grade,' she said.

She worked at the school until her retirement. Otto Wustrack died several years ago after reaching age 95.

In her free time, Dorothy Wustrack enjoyed making hook rugs and vegetable gardening. Karl Wustrack said his mother formed a junior garden club when he was a child and for a while she was secretary of the garden club at Tanner Spring.

'I loved plants,' she said.

She said she still loves listening to classical music and listens to the classical station on her television or CDs on her stereo. Every Saturday morning, she listens to the Metropolitan Opera.

Last year, she was the recipient of the housing facility's Senior Wish program and went to see an opera.

Dorothy Wustrack also enjoys playing bridge every day, although she admits she needs a little help now. In fact, she helped start the bridge club at Tanner Spring. She also paints watercolors and enjoys reading the classics, especially books about Lewis and Clark.

In honor of her birthday, Tanner Spring hosted a party for her Sept. 11 at the facility. Friends, relatives and former coworkers attended the celebration.