Resident marks 100th birthday with family, friends

Norma Reeser, a longtime Sweet Home resident, celebrated her 100th birthday Dec. 4.

On Sunday, Dec. 1, 70 friends and family members celebrated the milestone at Sweet Home New Life in Christ Fellowship. Finger food and cake was served. A picture slide show was shown of her life and there was lots of visiting and fellowship.

Reeser was born Dec. 4, 1919 near Woodburn during one of the coldest winters in Oregon’s history. There was 3 feet of snow on the ground the day she was born. Somehow the doctor made the trip to her home for her birth. She weighed about 3½ pounds.

To keep her warm in the drafty home, her parents put her in a shoe box and placed her behind the wood stove.

Because she was too small to walk the three miles alone, Norma was delayed in going to school by one year. The next year her sister was old enough to attend, and they walked together. The sisters shared their school books and completed eight grades in Molalla, before going to work to help support their family.

Reeser was the oldest of five children and has outlived her four siblings. She worked as a housekeeper for $5 a month until she was 19 years old and then became a telephone operator.

She met the love of her life, Harvey Reeser in 1941. They were married in 1942.

Harvey Reeser was drafted when the U.S. entered World War II. He served almost four years with the Civilian Public Service, a program of the United States government that provided conscientious objectors with an alternative to military service. During that time he worked for the U.S. Forest Service.

The first job was at Cascade Locks, building fire trails, driving truck and fire fighting. He was stationed at several sites in Mount Hood National Forest as there was a threat of incendiary bombs being dropped by the Japanese to start forest fires. Later he was transferred to a U.S. reclamation project near LaPine to clear lodgepole pine trees.

He also helped build Wickiup Dam and Reservoir and worked on three large dairy farms in Washington.

Upon completing his service, Harvey Reeser heard about logging jobs in Sweet Home. So he, Norma and their oldest son moved to Sweet Home. Two daughters were born at Langmack Hospital in Sweet Home.

In 1955, the family moved into Harvey and Norma’s dream home at Foster. Later, the house was moved up Wiley Creek Drive, due to the building of Foster Dam and Reservoir.

Norma and Harvey were inspired by Harry Holt International Adoption Agency to adopt a baby boy. They also became foster parents to a number of children.

The Reesers’ children are Stanley Reeser of Springfield; Sharon Marrs of Salem; Mary Lou Merrill of Lebanon and Robin of northeast Washington. She has eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

The Reesers loved to travel the United States along with Canada and Mexico. In 1984, they traveled around the world visiting 25 countries. Later they traveled to Costa Rica.

Norma Reeser enjoyed growing a garden and flowers, and still enjoys a few pots of flowers outside her window. She loved to quilt and not only did she make quilts for family and friends, she made over 400 blankets for Project Linus to be distributed to hospitalized and traumatized children.

She was honored as a VIP at the 2007 Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet.

Reeser was a member of Sweet Home Jolly Stitchers and a member of the Sweet Home Mennonite Church, now called New Life in Christ Fellowship. From a young child, she put her trust in Jesus Christ, which has sustained her through the years – even when she lost her husband of 55 years to a drowning accident at Green Peter Reservoir.

At age 91, Reeser decided that keeping up a house and four acres were too much for her, so moved to Mennonite Village in Albany. Last summer she moved to Harmony House in Salem.

– Thanks to Mary Lou Merrill for supplying information for this story.

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