REAL PEOPLE: Virginia McLaughlin - Enjoying dancing, gardening at 90

By Dick Mason, The Observer December 15, 2010 11:14 am
ISLAND CITY — Virginia McLaughlin of Island City is as good at waltzing through the noon hour as she is at staying a two step ahead of Father Time.

At age 90 McLaughlin enjoys few things more than doing the waltz during midday dance sessions at the Union County Senior Center.

“I like the rhythm of the dance. I feel like a swan gliding over water,’’ McLaughlin said.

A swan who moves better than people many years her junior.

“She is one of the very best dancers at the Union County Senior Center. She is very young for her age,’’ said Max Lane of Cove, who often dances with McLaughlin.

Lane credits McLaughlin with having excellent rhythm, technique and knowledge of dance steps — steps she honed while growing up in The Dalles area.

“I learned to dance in grange halls as a little girl. My dad played the accordion and I would dance to it ,’’ McLaughlin said. “I’ve always danced, it keeps me limber.’’

Her repertoire of activities also includes gardening. Each spring and summer the yard at her Island City home becomes a rainbow of color, as the petunias, irises, lilies, geraniums and many other plants bloom. Indeed she skillfully manages to keep her yard awash in bright hues each year through early fall. Like dancing, McLaughlin has been involved in gardening for many decades. She credits it with helping her cope with challenging periods of her life.

“It is good therapy, I enjoy it,’’ she said.

McLaughlin still mows her own yard on occasion.

“I did it once this year just so I could say I did it when I was 90,’’ McLaughlin said.

She is used to physical work after growing up on a large ranch and later living on one for many years in The Dalles area.

McLaughlin has become a welcome and familiar face at the Union County Senior Center since moving to La Grande from The Dalles in 2003.

“She is vibrant, industrious, pleasant and an inspiration to all of us,’’ Lane said.

McLaughlin moved here to be near family, including her son Chris, who lives in Elgin. She also has a son Duane of Hood River and daughters Colleen Wyllie of John Day and Gwen Baker of Soap Lake, Wash. McLaughlin has nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

McLaughlin, who turns 91 in February, cites no surprising secrets for her health and vigor. McLaughlin does note that she has tried to avoid fried foods most of her life and has tried to remain active and upbeat.

“A good attitude helps you have good health,’’ said McLaughlin, who takes no medications.

McLaughlin said she can’t wait for spring when she can begin gardening again. In the meantime her yard will be decorated by the many colorful avian visitors that come to her yard’s bird feeder. McLaughlin is inspired by everything which gives her a link to nature.

“I’m a country girl at heart,’’ she said.