Merrill Gardens in Mountlake Terrace celebrated a second centenarian’s birthday within one week as Theresa Pfennig turned 104 Tuesday.
Pfennig was born at her home in Madera, Penn. on April 26, 1912. She grew up riding a horse and raising livestock. Her father was a coal miner and eventually a coal foreman, and she would meet her father at the mine in a horse and buggy at the end of his work day. She graduated high school and lived at home until she was 22. Then, she attended Homewood Nursing School in Philadelphia starting in 1934. After one year of classes, she went on to work in wealthy homes as a baby nurse and nanny in the Philadelphia area.
One night off, she went to a dance with a girlfriend where she meet Herbert Pfennig. They dated on and off for the next few years and got married in 1939. They lived in New Jersey for a while, which is where Herbert’s family lived.
The couple had three daughters. The first two Stephanie and Joanie, were born in New Jersey. The youngest, Roberta, was born in Pennsylvania after the family moved to Reading, Penn., where Herbert worked as a salesman on the road for Celotex.
The family only had one car, which Herbert had to use for work, so Pfennig never learned how to drive. That meant for her to go anywhere, she had to walk. She said all that walking is one thing that helped her live to be 104.
The family also moved to California in 1957, then to Denver, then back to California, then to Mexico for six months, then to Yreka, Calif. about 11 years later. Their daughters each moved out during those 11 years — one went to UCLA, the second got married and moved to Washington and the youngest moved in with friends .
Pfennig did not like Yreka, though, and they soon moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., where the pair lived happily for 26 years. They eventually became the managers of their apartment complex there.
“It is the best place in the whole country,” Pfennig said.
Pfennig still could not drive, but her neighbor could, and so they spent a lot of time together. They would often drive to the beach and walk around, go shopping and just have fun. Pfennig’s daughter Joanie said her mother has always loved shopping and fashion.
Herbert died of pancreatic cancer in 1982. Pfennig stayed in Santa Rosa for another 15 years until she experienced a torn retina and lost most of the vision in her left eye. At that point, she moved to Mountlake Terrace with her middle daughter, Joanie, and her son-in-law in 1997. She lived with them until about one month ago, when she moved to Merrill Gardens, located at 23303 58th Ave. W.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate