Merrill Gardens throws party for 100-year-old who strives to ‘think happy’

Dorine Overton, 100-year-old Mountlake Terrace resident, with sons Terry, left, and Steve. (Son Tom is not pictured.)

“It’s the Whitney genes,” Dorine Overton’s son Steve declared emphatically in response to that time-honored question, “to what does she owe her long and happy life?”

On Thursday, more than 60 celebrants gathered at Merrill Gardens to party with Dorine Whitney Overton and two of her three sons on the eve of the Mountlake Terrace resident’s 100th birthday.

Dorine Overton was born Nov. 6, 1915 in sparsely populated Cotesfield, Neb. Imagine the Overton-family lifestyle that year, as listed by Merrill Gardens’ festivities emcee Lisa Elijah:

In 1915 the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years of age; only 14 percent of U.S. homes had bathtubs. As Elijah read off the revelations of life 100 years ago, the party room at Merrill Gardens began to buzz as residents reacted to the startling contrast between “now” and “then.”

The year that Dorine was born, there were only 8,000 cars in the United States and the maximum speed limit was 10 MPH — laughter and gasps of amazement followed.

Dorine attended a rural school near Cotesfield for the first five years of her education. The family then moved to Big Springs, Neb., where she continued through her high school years, graduating in 1933. Dorine then transferred to normal college in Greely, Colo. and taught for a time before finishing her teaching degree at Chadron College in Nebraska.

Dorine seemingly believes that straight-forward honesty is the best policy as she indicated during her MLTNews interview, “Teaching? I didn’t particularly like it.”

In 1940, Dorine left her teaching position to marry James Overton who had a career in the nation’s agricultural sector, primarily with Lilly Seed Co. A son and twin boys were born to the couple; Terry Overton, who lives in Orlando, Fla.; Steve Overton, who lives in Mountlake Terrace; and Tom Overton who resides in Portland, Ore.

Dorine tells MLTNews that while raising her family, she stayed busy working in the billing department of a doctor’s office and was also active in her church. Upon moving to Merrill Gardens, the obviously popular resident realized that she ”sometimes felt like a stranger” as she learned the names of her new neighbors. So she decided to join the hospitality committee to help new residents with their own transition.

“I never thought of myself as a people person. But one day I decided to just start saying, ‘Hello!’ to everyone I encountered.” She notes that she always makes it a point to add the person’s name to their greeting, which she thinks “is a nice touch.”

Sharp as a tack describes Dorine Overton perfectly. She attributes her curiosity and superior intellect to a dedication to and to her philosophy, “Think happy!”

— Story and photo by Emily Hill

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