Margarette Marsh sits to eat lunch and visit with friends at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Margarette Marsh sits to eat lunch and visit with friends at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Doing as she ‘darn well’ pleases

Soldotna resident celebrates 101 years on her own terms

At the Soldotna Senior Center on Friday, a surprise birthday party was set for newly 101-year-old Margarette Marsh. A cake was hidden in the director’s office and friends gathered in the dining space to celebrate Marsh.

She never showed up.

She skipped the party, she said, because she does what she wants — at 101, she’s earned that.

Speaking at the senior center on Monday, Marsh said she’s happy. Everything she’s wanted to do, she’s gone ahead and done. She doesn’t mean that she’s completed everything she set out to do, she means that every time she wants to do something, she does.

“That’s what life’s all about,” she said. “Meeting new people, knowing new things, doing new things.”

On Friday, Marsh hadn’t felt like attending, so she didn’t. Monday, she was excited to be back at the senior center, back chatting with friends — who she said are family — and meeting newcomers.

Marsh pointed across the room to a man she had met that morning, excitedly describing how she had asked him about himself.

Marsh said she is frustrated by the way her memory has “slipped” over the years, but she doesn’t let it stop her from meeting new people.

That hunger to learn expands to a love of reading. Marsh said she reads just about anything she can get her hands on, but that she really enjoys a love story.

As she spoke Monday, sitting for lunch at the center, visitors came bringing hugs, cards and lighthearted ribbing about skipping the birthday party.

Marsh has lived in Alaska since moving up from Washington to be closer to her husband. She’s worked several jobs, but said that she spent the most time running a grocery store. It was only open six days a week, but it kept her busy all seven.

“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” she said. “Anything that comes to my mind that I want to do… when they say I can’t? I do it.”

She said sometimes it was just that sense of spite that drove her, but she never missed out on anything she wanted to do, even if sometimes she was left wishing she hadn’t.

Marsh has, like anyone 101 years old, experienced love and experienced loss. Marsh had five husbands and five kids — two of whom have passed away.

Today, she lives in Soldotna with her daughter Sandra, “the stubbornest” of her children, while two other children live in the Lower 48.

She said Monday that when her daughter had tried to bring her to the senior center for the party and told to get up, she rolled right over and stayed in bed.

“Doesn’t anyone tell me that I gotta do something,” she said. “I’ve lived long enough to do as I darn well please.”

Her daughter said that Marsh has lived to 101 because of that drive to do what she wants — and that she expects Marsh to make 120.

“I feel like I have fully lived,” Marsh said. “I look at my hands and think ‘oh, those are getting old and scrappy,’ but golly, they’ve got a reason to.”

After missing her own party, she said she didn’t do much herself to celebrate turning 101. She said she has “a good rocker” at home that saw use. A slice of cake was brought home for the woman of the hour.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

A cake celebrating the 101st birthday of Margarette Marsh is hidden in the director’s office at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska, ahead of a planned surprise party on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A cake celebrating the 101st birthday of Margarette Marsh is hidden in the director’s office at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska, ahead of a planned surprise party on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Margarette Marsh sits to eat lunch and visit with friends at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Margarette Marsh sits to eat lunch and visit with friends at the Soldotna Senior Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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