A cheerful life
Rose Katherine Randolph has lived a fortunate life.
“Oh, I’ve had ups and downs, but I just figure, ‘Oh well, so what,’” she said.
The McMinnville woman, who turned 104 on May 10, has outlived five brothers. People tell her she looks younger than her baby sister, who’s a mere 97 — the same age to which their mother lived.
“Our family must have good genes,” said Rose, who admits she once thought 90 was quite old.
She credits her longevity more to her lifestyle. “I stay cheerful and happy, and I eat well,” she said.
Her son, John, points to a social network that keeps his mother connected to people and events.
She has lived in the same neighborhood and attended the same church, St. James Catholic, for more than 60 years. She’s always been active — in Girl Scouts, the Business and Professional Women’s organization, and St. Rita’s Circle altar society.
He also is astounded by his mother’s memory. She frequently reminds him of appointments, rather than the other way around, and her recall of events is amazing.
“I’ve been lucky,” she said. “I’ve worked hard, but I’ve been healthy and strong and never without a job. It’s been easier on me than on some.”
She does have some vision and hearing problems these days, but that doesn’t stop her from balancing her checkbook or reading greeting cards and the newspaper. And she “reads” books on tape, a pastime that allows her to indulge her keen interests in travel and history.
“But I don’t like murder mysteries, not at all,” she said.
She enjoys the plants decorating both the exterior and interior of her home. Roses are a favorite, of course, along with African violets.
Rose never had a driver’s license, although she did get a permit and try to learn once. She steered the family’s stick shift from Carlton to McMinnville, then signaled for a right turn, but turned left instead. “I broke the turn signal,” she said. “I hopped out and said to my husband, ‘It’s all yours.’”
He probably didn’t want her to learn to drive anyway, she said, since it might have tempted her to be away from home too much. And really, she’s glad she didn’t drive — she’s always loved to walk.
“I loved walking through downtown or walking to church,” she said. “John and I would take the long way and walk through Linfield on our way home from church.”
Randolph was born on the Nebraska prairie, the granddaughter of Polish immigrants who homesteaded in a sod house. She grew up in Columbus, about 100 miles west of Omaha, fishing in the Platte River and studying in a one-room, country school.
“Those were horse-and-buggy days,” she said.
She recalled going to town with her family. The horses had to ford the Platte, swimming as they pulled the buggy. For the children, she said, “that was very exciting.”
In 1916, her father bought a Studebaker, one of the first motor cars in the area. Five years later, when Rose was 12, she got to fly in a plane — an open cockpit biplane that offered 10-minute rides over the town. Her aunt and youngest brother, John, went along.
“Oh, that was fun,” she said.
She also enjoyed seeing silent movies with her family. Her whole school went to see “Birth of a Nation,” D.W. Griffith’s 1915 classic.
Later, Rose attended the same Catholic school her mother had attended, St. Bonaventure. She was one of seven people in the 1927 graduating class.
She started working as a teen, always earning enough to at least pay for silk hose to go with the clothes her mother made for her. In Columbus, she was a secretary for a wholesale grocer.
Later, in Omaha, she worked in a ladies’ ready-to-wear store and served as a secretary and credit manager for a men’s shirt company.
A man named Roy “Randy” Randolph worked a block down the street at a furniture company. “He was quiet and liked books and classical music,” she recalled.
They dated and eventually got engaged. They both wanted to leave Nebraska, so he went looking for a new place for them to live and opted for Oregon.
“Nebraska is cold and windy in winter, and hot and dry in summer. Oregon is such a relief,” Rose said, recalling how happy she’s been with that decision.
As Roy was heading home to claim his bride, he heard terrible news on the radio: the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was going to war.
The couple married in 1942 and boarded a train for the move to Portland.
Rose worked as a secretary at the Kaiser shipyards.
When her husband went into the Army, he was stationed in Brooklyn. So she transferred there, too, and became secretary to Henry Kaiser.
Spending the war years in New York wasn’t terrible, she said. As a military man, her husband could get theater tickets, so she was able to attend all the concerts and Broadway shows.
Years later, in McMinnville, they often saw plays and concerts at Linfield College.
After the war, the Randolphs bought a car and drove across the country to Portland.
They relocated to McMinnville in 1950. During their first year, they lived in the Cozine House.
At first, her husband worked in a furniture store and Rose stayed at home with the kids. But when John was in second grade at St. James School, the couple started their own store.
They’d planned to do that all along. In fact, that’s why they chose McMinnville.
Randolph Furniture was located on Third Street in the building that now houses a Mexican restaurant. It sold high-end furniture in early American, traditional and French Provençal designs, and was the first store in the area to carry Danish modern. The store also offered drapes and carpet, she said.
“It was a very good business,” she said, recalling that McMinnville was growing and developing its industrial and technical industries at the time.
Rose, the bookkeeper, was working when Turkey Rama started in 1961. Shetland ponies gave children rides right outside the store’s front door that July.
The following year, on a breezy Oct. 12, Rose walked down the street to the U.S. Bank to make a deposit.
By the time she was finished, the Columbus Day Storm was shaking the windows. The bank’s front door, facing Third Street, was locked. “You can’t go out there!” bankers warned her.
But Rose wanted desperately to get back to her store and her husband. So she went out another door and ran east to the nearest shop, then moved from building to building until she was at the furniture store.
Randolph Furniture’s large plate glass windows were moving in and out, as if they were made of fabric rather than glass. “I thought they would blow out. The windows at Farnham’s, right across the street, had blown out,” she recalled.
Somehow the windows withstood the blow. Her house was OK, as well, save for a few lost shingles. The electricity was out for several days, so Rose cooked dinner in the basement fireplace for three days.
The Randolphs ran their store until 1970. Rose sometimes accompanied her husband on buying trips to San Francisco or other big cities, whetting her taste for travel.
After they retired, they traveled all over the U.S., to Canada and Mexico, and made several trips to Europe, as well. On one trip, they bought a Volvo and spent two months driving through Europe before shipping it home.
Rose especially loved visiting Spain’s cities and the Spanish Riviera.
When people ask her about her favorite place, she said, “I used to say Granada. But now, I think the answer is McMinnville.”
“I love McMinnville,” she explained. “If I found a place I liked better, I’d go there.”
Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.