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A Guide to a Fulfilling Senior Life in Whatcom County

ENCORE Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The always-moving lives of sisters Nettie Pottratz and Tina “Toots” Navis have 100 years of active history to tell. ................. C6

A supplement of the Lynden Tribune and Ferndale Record


Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record


Gerrit Terpsma enjoying a full life

He credits his 98 years to an attitude of staying busy, getting things done By Elisa Claassen for the Lynden Tribune

   LYNDEN ­— At age 98 Gerrit Terpsma is still living in his home and still actively enjoying life. “Every (type of) work I did in my life, I enjoyed it,” Gerrit said.    A simple statement, but true.    In a time when people may grimace about going to work, that hasn’t been the case for Gerrit. He has done many things in life, heeding his father’s advice to his kids to stay busy and get as much done as possible in a day.    “We’re very blessed to have him,” said daughters Kathy Weeks and Diane Gascon, visiting Gerrit recently and again hearing parts of his story.    He is the sole survivor of nine children. He married Gertrude Jansen in 1940, and they had six children. When she passed after 40 years of marriage, he remarried Wilma Nieuwsma Groen and they will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary in December.    Life for him began on West Main Street on May 6, 1918 when he was born to Netherlands immigrants Henry and Augusta Terpsma. (Henry later became a

postmaster of Lynden.) The 40-acre farm was located west of today’s big Preferred Freezer warehouse building. “It’s all gone,” he says of what was once a rural area, now edging toward industrial use.    Gerrit was number six out of nine siblings. His sister Effie Neville, who later went by Barbara, lived to be 100.    At age 5 Gerrit fell from the second floor of the Lynden house. “Just like that I was on the first floor.” He was unharmed. He remembers that the house was being remodeled and lacked a needed railing. A carpenter installed one the next day.    By the time Gerrit was 8, the family had moved to their long-time farm on Willeys Lake Road.    He would become a dairyman there, first for his father and then for himself. He remembers farming with horses before tractors become common. It was hard work, as his father used a team of draft horses not only for farm work but for his side business of hauling gravel from the Nooksack River to area businesses and for creating roads. Milking cows was done by hand as well at first. The family home had no indoor plumbing or electricity until his father purchased half a line of electricity, or a half mile of poles and wires, for the sum of $130.    He also served as a farm manager for Ira Strickland on Benson Road. Gerrit recalls that his brother Ed made $15 a month for his dairyman duties for Strickland, but the pay was upped to $30 a month when Gerrit took over in 1936 at age 18. A first-gener-

Gerrit Terpsma is active at age 98. (Elisa Claassen/Lynden Tribune)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record

ENCORE ation DeLaval milking machine eased the job of hand milking a herd of 40. Milk in those days was cooled and hauled to the Carnation plant in Ferndale in 10-gallon milk cans.    The Terpsma family was featured in the February 1957 issue of Darigold Digest. A new refrigerated milk tank had been bought in 1953 for $2,500. The family also had survived two potentially tragic accidents with a tractor “because of his two quick-thinking boys,” the article said of Gerrit.    Another memory of the time is that the Terpsma family went to a local grange to hear an aspiring young country music singer named Loretta Lynn. She had picked beans at their place. The one-time Whatcom resident would go on to become the American music legend, now 84.    Later, Gerrit went to work for Captain J.J. Bay, a retired naval captain who had a farm on Benson as well. That herd was 50 Jerseys plus 50 young stock. The farm was in operation until 1974.    Farming can seem commonplace to many who grow up in Whatcom County. Gerrit thinks also of its risks. There was an incident with a silo in 1973. As he climbed the ladder in a silo about 30 feet up, he realized there was no draft, no air circulating the silage fumes, and he was being affected by them. He managed to slide more than climb down and lost consciousness as he got outside. An ambulance came and he was revived with a dose of oxygen.    He considers it a miracle. Had the silo door closed, he could have died, he was told.    Leaving farming behind, he spent seven years, 1974 to 1981, working as a shareholder at Mt. Baker See Terpsma on C5

Gerrit’s daughters, Kathy and Diane, pay a visit to Wilma and Gerrit Terpsma. (Elisa Claassen/Lynden Tribune)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record



Pedaling for Parkinson's comes to Lynden YMCA Ten cycles out for use at 11:30 a.m. three days a week By Calvin Bratt

   LYNDEN ­— Eldon Meyer has dealt with Parkinson’s disease for 18 years now. It began at a very low level when he was still in his 35-year banking career in Oregon, said his wife, Carmel.    The effects have been very gradual for him, without tremors, and Carmel is grateful for all they have been able to learn about Parkinson’s — and do about it — over time.    Having moved to Lynden three years ago, the Meyers frequently attend a monthly Parkinson’s support group at the Parkway Chateau in Bellingham.    There is also a dance class for any with neurological disorders, with a session now led by Pam Kuntz through June 2 at Ballet Bellingham near the Civic Athletic Complex. “It’s so fun. It’s movement!” exclaimed Carmel.    And now they are happy to have another means of help conveniently close by. The Lynden YMCA has received 10 stationary cycling units and started offering Pedaling for Parkinson’s on May 9.    Research on neurological restoration at the Cleveland Clinic has shown up to a 35 percent re- Eldon Meyer pedals with Felicia Clemmons available to encourage and answer questions. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record

ENCORE duction in symptoms by the simple act of pedaling a bicycle at a rapid pace, optimally at 80-90 revolutions per minute.    It’s not a cure, sponsors are quick to say. But it seems that this exercise can make a real difference in the lives of some who try it.    The program continues at 11:30 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Lynden program center, 100 Drayton St. Each of those days, healthy living director Felicia Clemmons will pull the 10 Life Cycle GX units from a side room into the gym, and folks can pedal away for an hour.   It’s no cost beyond YMCA membership. But participants up to age 75 should get their own medical clearance, then have an interview with Felicia and sign a consent form.    At least six folks have joined in thus far, and she is still getting the word out.    This program was already being offered at the Bellingham YMCA, and demand was strong. Perhaps cycles will be added at Ferndale as well.    Bruce Baker is another who was pedaling with Eldon in the first

week. As they got warmed up in the first 10 minutes, Felicia checked on their pace and encouraged them as they progressed toward 80 rpms.    Carmel said there has been an explosion of research related to Parkinson’s disease in just the 18 years they’ve been paying attention. And the Meyers appreciate all the support they’ve experienced in Whatcom County.    “There’s nothing like having a community with other people who are in the same boat. You learn so much and you develop friendships, because otherwise it can feel pretty alone sometimes, just you and your doctor,” she said.    Clemmons credits the Mt. Baker Rotary Club and the local Chuckanut Health Foundation with helping to bring the cycles to Lynden, noting “these things aren’t cheap.”    The support group gathers at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. The venue is at 2818 Old Fairhaven Parkway. Contact Debra at 724-3382.    For the dance class, also good for caregivers, just show up at 9:30 a.m. on Thursdays at 1405 Fraser St., Bellingham. Contact Kuntz at 5104711 or


Terpsma Continued from C3

Plywood and later for Whatcom Farmers Coop.    After his working years, Gerrit stayed active volunteering. He and Wilma have trained with the American Red Cross and gone to several natural disaster sites including Louisiana, Florida and California. They have passed out food after earthquakes and interviewed victims to find out their needs.    At age 87 he became a “Minuteman” in the civil defense program of citizens helping guard the local U.S.-Canada border. 9-11 had heightened concerns of drug dealers, criminals and others penetrating the open spaces along the border. The work primarily consisted of sitting near the border with a cell phone and binoculars to report anything suspicious to authorities. Eventually, the effort stopped.    Another involvement has been donating blood. Gerrit started when a younger brother, Art, was shot at the Battle of the Bulge toward the end of World War II in Belgium in 1945. Over time, Gerrit passed the 120-unit mark, and he stopped giving only five years ago. With a few breaks, he had gone in faithfully to give a pint almost every 56 days.    Although he doesn’t farm anymore, he still chops firewood for his kids and does gardening from his Lynden home. Last year’s crop of green beans produced 140 quarts to can. The previous year was 160 quarts.

The pedaling effort is monitored.



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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record



100 years old and it doesn't show Rutgers sisters Nettie and Tina live together at Meadow Greens, reflect on their many experiences of life

gravel streets and a large tree in the middle of Front Street near the Lynden Department Store (now Waples Building). They would have to walk or drive around the tree. While their mother got groceries from LDS, they would go across to their favorite place, Mrs. Baxter’s penny candy store, each with a nickel. The butcher’s shop was next door and “each of us kids got a wiener.”

By Elisa Claassen for the Lynden Tribune

   LYNDEN ­— Being interviewed, Nettie Pottratz had come off of four nights of celebrating her 100th birthday on April 24. The excitement of having so much activity left her a bit tired, she said. Nettie and sister Tina “Toots” Navis, three and a half years apart in age, are the middle and last surviving children of six of Dick and Ruby Rutgers.    Growing up — and even as adults — these two didn’t stay put. They moved around Lynden, away from Lynden and then returned to Lynden.    Early family homes were along Depot Road near where they both now live in Meadow Greens Retirement Community, along West Badger Road and also where Tina was born at the location of Edaleen Dairy’s farm. Their dad was a jack-of-alltrades man. One job was grading roads for Whatcom County from the border to the Nooksack River.    Looking back, they remember Lynden had

Nettie    Nettie, can you believe you’ve turned 100? “No, I can’t. God gave me a lot of strength.”    That strength would be tested with a heart attack and a stroke two decades ago. She persevered to reach her centennial year.    The family had longevity. Nettie and Tina’s parents each lived into their 90s.    Nettie’s 18-year marriage to first husband Bert Van Ry produced three children, but one child died at just 10 weeks old.    “The Lord has a purpose for it all,” said her sister, who also lost a child.    Nettie’s work life involved using different skills, from running her own restaurant on Main Street in Lynden — and making memorably thick lemon meringue or berry pies — to driving truck and selling mobile homes. She would get up at 4 a.m. to start baking pies and make potato salad and soups. Soon it would get busy with truckers pulling in to

Nettie Pottratz turned 100 on April 24.



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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record



eat. They liked to eat well. She shakes her head when talking of places that made skinny pies and called them “pie.”    She and Bert had several trucks and ran loads of local strawberries south to a facility near Marysville. One night she was “terribly tired” as she drove the section along Old Samish Road before Interstate 5 was opened. She opened the windows and had to stop to rest. Another time, during a storm, she chose to drive up Chuckanut Drive to avoid the strong winds.    Nettie really enjoyed mobile home trailer sales. “I never had a repo (repossession),” she said.    The trailers came by train from Wisconsin and other manufacturing sites. Once she got them, she had to clean them and “deck them out” to appeal to buyers with all of the right colors and decor. Inevitably her own trailer serving as a model unit would sell, again and again, and she would have to move into another one.    Marriage number two was to a deputy sheriff from Yakima, Les Pottratz. In fact, the day she got her divorce she turned around and got her marriage license after having dated him a few months. This union lasted 43 years. Over time they went from Yakima to nearby Union Gap to Centralia to Rochester and back to Lynden.    Les had left the police force and they sold mobile homes for her brother Ernie Rutgers in several of the cities, including putting together an entire mobile home park in Rochester. Tina “Toots”    “I’m thankful to the Lord for my blessings.”    Some know Tina for her longtime lace store, World Gift Gallery, that was in Delft Square and then in the Dutch Village. She still remains active, does her own hair and talks of her faith.    In the early days of her first marriage to Anton “Tony” Van Waveren, home was near the little barber shop on Front Street. It was purchased for $3,000 and now has apartments. In the course of 30 years, they See Sisters on C8

Sisters Tina and Nettie have many experiences of life to look back on, both in Lynden and beyond. (Elisa Claassen/Lynden Tribune)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Ferndale Record



Sisters: Oh, how times have changed Continued from C7

were in Mount Vernon and they had a tulip bulb farm. One claim to fame is starting what eventually became the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. It began as small shows in a high school gym to eventually bring large groups of tourists to the actual farm sites. Her former farm is now the site of the popular Tulip Town on Bradshaw Road, she said.    She is especially proud of developing a program called Spark, a partnership with parents of special-needs children. Eventually the state took it over.    They became involved, as Nettie had, in the family business of mobile homes. Before first husband Tony passed away, quickly in a matter of days at age 66 in 1979, they were managing the Lakeway Estates mobile home park in Bellingham.    Five years later, she remarried to Harland Navis and added five stepchildren to her three children. As representatives of World Missions for the Christian Reformed Church, they covered five states. “It was interesting work and he got Alzheimer’s disease and we had to quit.”    Harland passed away in 2005 after seven years at the Christian Health Care Center, “a wonderful place.” She moved from her home to apartments on Aaron Drive near CHCC to help with Harland. “I drew my strength from him.”    These days, Tina has given up on driving a car, but not in getting out. She uses a bus for Bible studies and even enjoys bocce games with Lynden seniors. Living at

Meadow Greens also provides social outlets including bingo, socials in the on-site library and a recent outing to a showing of “God’s Not Dead 2” in Bellingham.    As she leans over to locate something for Nettie, she appears to be quite limber. “I’m a fervent believer in exercise,” Tina said. “I exercise five days a week.” Then versus now    Although terrorist attacks seem intrinsic to today, it wasn’t that much different when there were blackouts during World War II amid fear of attacks from the Japanese, Tina said.    “It was scary,” she said. “My husband was a National Guardsman, and I was left alone.” In his role, he was sent to be a lookout along the coast.    Tina recalls riding in a buggy with a blanket instead of being in a heated car. Their dad had the first Chevy in Whatcom County with leather window shades over the tiny windows.    Food was definitely cheaper: 13 cents for a loaf of bread, 30 cents for coffee, and 5 cents for ice cream when Tina first married in 1938. Yet, she also remembers food being rationed during wartime. Small tokens, given by the Office of Price Administration, were issued from 1942 to 1945 for canned goods, meats, sugar, coffee, tires, gas and more.    Her husband managed the glucose plant on the Badger Road near Line Road. From potatoes it made a type of

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sugary syrup as a sweetener for canning.    Today’s conveniences she appreciates are: disposable diapers versus using flannel cloth, clothes dryers versus clothing racks, modern appliances, and even having indoor bathrooms. She thinks of her formal education ending at age 13 and yet all of the things she managed to do.    “I keep thinking how good we have it today….and how safe we have been kept. God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.” A favorite recipe    Some time ago, Nettie Pottratz put together a cookbook of her favorite recipes. Many were used when she ran her restaurant on Main Street. One was sent by her daughter-in-law Linda Van Ry to print: Lemon Lush   • Mix 1 cube butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup finely chopped, mixed nuts. Pat into pie pan and bake 15 min. at 375.   • Mix well with blender: 8 oz. cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup Cool Whip. Pour in cooled crust and put in refrigerator.   • Make 2 (3-oz. packages) instant lemon pudding according to directions and spread on top of cream cheese mixture.   • Top with Cool Whip and nuts and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

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