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Still lively at 105.

Byline: Saul Hubbard The Register-Guard

When you've had as many birthdays as Grace Fuss, coming up with fresh party themes becomes a bit of challenge.

But with birthday 105 on the horizon, Fuss' family immediately thought of a line in the ubiquitous 1950s ballad "Young at Heart," which has been sung by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, among others.

So, at an early birthday party on Saturday, Fuss, in her pearls and a straw bowler hat, sat with three generations of her descendants and friends, being serenaded by a 21st century crooner.

"And if you should survive to a hundred and five

Look at all you'll derive out of being alive.

And here is the best part, you have a head start

If you are among the very young at heart."

Fuss silently mouthed along to the lyrics at first, before breaking into her singing voice, with a smile on her face.

The oldies ballad wasn't the only throwback of the day. Fuss, who never learned to drive, took a brief tour of the parking lot of her south Eugene assisted living home in her son-in-law's green and black 1929 Model A Ford.

Fuss' brother owned the same car many years ago and, according to family legend, Fuss was among 15 relatives who crammed into the two-seater for a drive in Washington state, with several children standing on the car's rails.

Fuss was born on July 16, 1909, on a Canadian farm. Living conditions on that Alberta prairie were tough, her family says, but all Fuss could remember Saturday were the "delicious" wild strawberries that she would pick there.

After moving to Tacoma with her family and graduating from Carsons Beauty College in 1928, Fuss worked in several beauty shops in Tacoma and Olympia. She met Ivan Fuss at a bowling alley. They were married in 1940 and spent 53 years together until he died in 1993.

Not that their path to marriage was always smooth. Prompted by her daughter, Linda Mayer, Fuss briefly recounted on Saturday the couple's most infamous domestic dispute, involving a blackberry pie.

"I threw it at him," she said, with a laugh.

Fuss, who has three children, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, has abounded with energy in the later years of her life. Deep into her nineties, she was known for her two- to three-mile hikes. A breast cancer survivor, she did a five-mile "Race for the Cure" in Portland in 2000. At 93, she walked Eugene's "Butte to Butte" with her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

When she moved into Emerald Valley Assisted Living on West Amazon Drive last year, a bored Fuss wanted a job of some kind to fill the time. So she started Grace's Gift Cart, an antique flower cart from which she supplies other facility residents with various sundries from a dollar store.

"She's so positive," said Mayer, her daughter. "Big parties like this are a little daunting for her now, at first. But she loves being with her family and seeing people face to face."

The big ambition Fuss still harbors is to campaign for Hillary Clinton, should she run for president in 2016, and be alive to see the first woman elected president.

Fuss, who became a U.S. citizen in 1956 so she could vote, met Clinton at a book signing in 2003 in Portland. She then campaigned for her when she lost the 2008 Democratic primary election to Barack Obama.

"I want to see a woman elected," she said. "That would be amazing."

Follow Saul on Twitter @SaulAHubbard. Email
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 13, 2014
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