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La Grande Observer 11/28/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow TURNING 109

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TURNING 109

Birthday girl: Nell Steffen holds the favorite household cat on her lap at the Ruth Andrews adult foster care home in La Grande. Steffen celebrated her 109th birthday Thursday. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
Birthday girl: Nell Steffen holds the favorite household cat on her lap at the Ruth Andrews adult foster care home in La Grande. Steffen celebrated her 109th birthday Thursday. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

She's not the oldest person in Oregon yet, but Nell Steffen chalked up 109 years Thursday.

When asked how she felt about her age, Steffen replied, "I don't think a thing about it.

"I don't want a party — if I can help it."

Nevertheless, the passage of 109 years was worth at least a small celebration, and Steffen's family — children, nieces and nephews — gathered for ice cream and cake Thursday evening.

The centenarian's hearing and eyesight have failed with the passage of time, and she now uses a wheelchair to move from room to room at the adult foster home where she lives. Ruth Andrews owns the La Grande home.

A few years ago, when she turned 105, Steffen talked to The Observer about her life and times, remembering riding from La Grande to Imbler in a horse-drawn buggy. She completed normal school, then a school for prospective teachers, but she worked for 13 years as a cook at Central School. Until a couple of years ago, she lived alone in her home in downtown La Grande, from where she closely followed the Portland Trail Blazers on radio.

With age, failing eyesight and hearing, Steffen's world has grown smaller. Her days are now filled with watching birds from her window, joining her four housemates for meals, and petting her newest friend, a cat named Doozer.

Nell was born Jan. 23, 1894, in Imbler.

— Alice Perry Linker

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