By Polly Keary, Editor
Rosella Roff wasn’t planning on much of a fuss for her birthday.
But her friends and family had other ideas.
After all, it wasn’t just any birthday.
On Friday, July 26, Rosella turned 100. And about 70 friends and family members, some from as far as Hawaii, gathered at Merrill Gardens to sing “Happy Birthday,” eat cake, and wish Roff well.
Until about three weeks ago, Roff would have been sitting in the room with them. But recently her health took a turn for the worse, so she listened in from her bed as her guests sang to her over the intercom.
Family members and friends then started trooping up to her room, a few at a time, to visit and give her gifts.
The first gift came from Merrill Gardens; a plaque bearing Roff’s picture on one side and some of the highlights of her life on the other.
According to the story on the plaque, she was born in Lima, Ohio in 1913, and worked on the family farm while going to school, where she enjoyed basketball and tennis. Her father drove what was termed a “school bus,” a horse-drawn wagon with a stove built into the floor to keep the kids warm on cold winter days.
She was a good student and went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at Ohio State University.
In her 20s, she sold Liberty Bonds to support the troops during World War II, and the work she did during the war brought her to Seattle, where she worked at Boeing as an inspector during the war. After the war she became a teacher, which she did for many years before taking the job as principal of Highline Elementary School in Seattle.
She met and married Frank Roff, who owned a butcher shop in Seattle, and who had a lot of family in the Monroe area.
To include all the highlights of Roff’s achievements would have required a much larger plaque.
She first went into business as a young girl, when her mother gave her a patch of garden to work, and she grew and sold vegetables from it.
In later years, she opened a dress shop with a friend, and she and her husband successfully speculated in real estate.
“They invested in property, subdivided them and sold them off and made a good retirement income,” said grandson Frank Roff. “They had nice pieces of land on the coast and on the Columbia, and she got her real estate license once.”
After her husband passed away, Roff bought a property in Monroe and moved onto it about 10-15 years ago.
She remained independent for a very long time, and her loved ones used to wince at the sight of her driving her car at a painfully slow pace down the highway.
“I used to live on Highway 2 and I would be in the yard, and I could see down the highway, and there would be traffic, and then there would be a break and then I could see a long line of cars coming behind her. She was going to Snohomish at 39 miles an hour,” said one man who, though not related, is considered an honorary grandson of Roff’s.
She got her license renewed at the age of 97.
Roff was very active in her church and her homeowners’ association, and when she moved into Merrill Gardens, she was active there, too, serving as president of the Resident Council.
As she rested in bed and greeted her well-wishers, she smiled at the plaque and the fuss, too.
“Everyone wanted to have a party,” she said.
The celebration was important, said Lisa Caldwell, Community Relations Director at Merrill Gardens.
The reason why was emblazoned in the last lines on the plaque she presented to Roff.
“It is an honor to recognize such a tremendous individual who has met the challenges of life, overcome obstacles along the way, and has managed to accomplish so much,” the plaque said.