Bookmobile librarian was best job in 100 years

(This story was published Aug. 31, 2016 in the Mukilteo Beacon)

By Sara Bruestle
Mukilteo Beacon

Dorothy Larson photo
Dorothy Larson turned 100 on Aug. 22, 2016.

Dorothy Larson’s birthday cake read in frosting: “A century in the making.”

Larson, of Mukilteo, celebrated her 100th birthday at American Legion Hall in Marysville on Aug. 20.

In a building as old as she, Larson celebrated with 150 family and friends. She blew out three candles on her cake this year – with the numbers 1-0-0.

“All I can say is that I feel that I am extremely fortunate to be as healthy as I am and to be able to wake up every morning and enjoy the day,” she said. “Every day is a blessing.”

Larson was born near Sexsmith in Canada on Aug. 22, 1916 – the same year that Blanche Fisher Wright published the book “The Real Mother Goose” of traditional nursery rhymes.

When she was 4, the family moved to Sexsmith, Alberta, so that her father could open his own doctor’s office. When her father died in 1927 at age 47, her mother supported the family by offering room and board to teachers.

“My father died when I was only 11 years old,” Larson said. “I thought my world had come apart. My mother was left to raise my brother and myself.”

Larson graduated from Sexsmith High School in 1933 and from the University of Alberta in 1938, earning a degree in education. She taught for 10 years at various schoolhouses in Alberta before she decided teaching wasn’t for her.

“I tried teaching in the local schools, but I decided it was not my cup of tea,” she said. “I really liked reading and books, and I learned to read early. I read every book in the town library. I thought, well, why don’t I pursue my passion?’”

In 1948, she moved to Everett to pursue a librarian degree from the University of Washington.

After graduation, Larson was hired as a bookmobile librarian for the Snohomish County Rural Library District. She loved her job because she loved to read. She worked for the library district for 20 years.

“It was the most interesting job I ever had,” Larson said. “I loved helping children, especially. It was very fulfilling to direct the children to good books on the bookmobile.”

Perhaps she even recommended that the children check out the book “The Real Mother Goose.”

That same year, Dorothy met her husband, Clarence Larson, on a blind date at the Elks Lodge in Everett. They married three years later, in 1951. Together they had two children; Patricia and Michael.

“I married an adorable American,” she said. “I fell right away.”

Larson retired in 1973 after working for 12 more years at the Everett School District’s main library.

In retirement, she and Clarence toured Canada and the United States for six months in a motorhome. Gasoline was then just 35 cents per gallon.

After Clarence died in 1990, Larson kept herself busy by traveling, playing bridge and Scrabble, reading books and even writing two of her own.

She wrote “Beyond the End of the Steel” (2004), which tells her grandparents’ story, and “Don’t We Have It Good!” (2012), which tells her parents’ story.

At 100, although she has lost most of her sight, she still enjoys Scrabble and books – she gets help playing the game and listens to audio books. She particularly likes books by doctors.

“She’s had a pioneer spirit her entire life,” said Michael Larson, her son. “She’s been kind of on her own, since my dad died, for 26 years now. She has maintained herself and enjoyed life.

“She doesn’t give up on things; she follows through on things. Even writing books. That was a lot of work, a labor of love for a number of years. It’s likely she would have done more if her vision [hadn’t gone].”

Though she has lived in Mukilteo since 1995, she also stays part time at her nephew’s house in Tulalip.

At her birthday party, friends and family showered her with gifts, even though the invitation asked them not to. One friend presented her with a $100 bill – one dollar for every year lived.

They traveled from Alberta, Wisconsin, California and Japan to wish her a happy birthday – and many more.

What’s her secret to longevity? She credits her good genes and positive outlook on life.

“I try to be more optimistic,” Larson said. “Each day is a blessing, and I’m fortunate to be able to enjoy it.”