Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Edna Britten is going strong at 101

by: Jaime Valdez Edna Britten smiles after blowing out her candles Monday at the Hearthstone of Beaverton Assisted Living Community.

Edna Britten credits her personal guardian angel for helping her reach the grand age of 101.

'I was 12 when my father died, but before he passed, he told me he'd be up there sitting with the Lord watching over me, and I have believed him all this time,' the birthday girl said Monday morning in her Hearthstone of Beaverton apartment.

So much so, in fact, she even refused to kiss her future husband, Chester Britten, outside while they were courting because 'I didn't want my father and my Heavenly Father watching me.'

It could be that feeling their presence from up above also kept her from sneaking snacks between meals, she joked before saying, 'Knowing they have been looking out for me all these years is the reason I'm not a worrier. I don't worry about things because I know everything will turn out.'

Life has indeed turned out well for Edna, who celebrated her big day in style with her family and friends at the assisted living community on Southwest Hart Road, where she has made her home for the last two years.

'I'm just pleased,' the Oregon native said of turning 101. 'It's a good life, and I wonder how long it's going to last.

'I do say, 'Thank you, Lord,' every morning I wake up.'

Quick study

Edna is a descendent of the Davis family, which traveled on the third wagon train to settle in Oregon in the 1840s.

She grew up in McMinnville and graduated from high school at 16. She went on to study French at what would become Linfield College during her freshman year.

'I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,' Edna recalled. 'I had a French teacher who was just wonderful. I loved her and wanted to be like her.'

Even though she had always been business minded, she began her career in education teaching languages for $1,200 a year. She later taught business, typing, bookkeeping and accounting at several Oregon and Washington schools, including a couple of years at Beaverton High School.

'I made $100 a month - this was a fortune for me because I was earning $15 a month working at the Miller Mercantile,' she said of her first teaching job.

The contract she signed for that position came with a disclaimer that it would be canceled at the time of her marriage or on May 19, 1933.

Fortunately, she made her beau, who she'd known since she was 12, wait a decade after he first proposed.

'He proposed during the Depression and I told him, 'Yes, but not now,'' she explained. 'I thought I didn't have much to start a household and didn't think to ask him.

'It turned out he had plenty of money.'

At the age of 34, she finally agreed to marry Chester on Feb. 5, 1944, right before he shipped out with the U.S. Army to serve in Europe during World War II. The couple welcomed the birth of their only child, Chet Britten, eight years later.

Life lessons

After the death of her husband and four decades in the classroom, Edna moved back to Beaverton in 1985 to be near her son and his wife, Marie, who agreed to give her grandbabies. She is now the proud grandmother of Ashley and Alex, who are both in college.

'She has taught us that attitude is everything,' Marie said of her mother-in-law. 'Edna is truly a joy to be around.'

Her husband agreed.

'She ingrained in me the value of being a good, moral person,' Chet added. 'We have also learned not to worry too much because things do seem to turn out.'

Edna also is living proof that getting involved in challenging activities can strengthen the mind and body. Whether it's reading at night, getting in her daily exercises or sitting down to a lively game of bridge, which she took up in her 80s, Edna relishes every moment.

'I like doing things that make you think and require some intelligence,' she admitted.