Spiritwood resident celebrates one Eck of a 100th birthday

February 14, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Violet Eck (center) celebrates her 100th birthday Feb. 7 with friends and family including sons Steven Ek (left) and Roger Ek. By Tom Corrigan

At least in front of a reporter, Violet Eck didn’t have much to say on the occasion of her 100th birthday.

Eck celebrated the day with family Feb. 7 at the Spiritwood at Pine Lake retirement community in Issaquah. She was born in 1912 in Spokane, though she has lived in this area for a number of years.

Asked if she had anything to say to a reporter, Eck had a quick comeback that drew big laughs from family members.

“No,” Eck said, “I don’t tell those things.”

Nevertheless, her oldest, Steven Ek, told his mom’s story nicely.

While still in high school, Eck was offered a debate scholarship to Washington State University. But the Great Depression interrupted her college plans at least for a while. There simply was no money, Ek said, to pay for his mother’s living expenses had she gone to school.

By the way, you might have noticed the elder Eck and her sons spell their names differently. There are at least two stories as to why Violet Eck added an extra consonant to her last name.

According to Steven Ek, people constantly asked his mother if she spelled her last name as “E-c-k.” She simply grew tired of saying, “no.” Daughter-in-law Polly Ek said she understood her mother-in-law complained that people often thought “Ek” were her initials.

No matter how she eventually came to spell her last name, Eck eventually did get to attend college. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in education from what was then Cheney Normal College, now known as Eastern Washington State University. Initially, she taught school in the unincorporated area of Chattaroy. It was during that time that she met her future husband, David John Ek. The two married in 1936 and stayed together for 55 years until David Ek died in 1991.

After being a stay-at-home mom for a while, Eck went back to school to gain her certificate in special education. She taught in both the Spokane and Seattle school systems, retiring from Seattle schools in 1975.

Steven Ek said his mom traveled a lot after retirement, visiting places throughout the United States and Europe, often by herself, but also often in the company of two sisters. Eck is the last of a total of four sisters.

Eck’s extended family has long included Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed. Reed’s wife Margie Reed is Eck’s niece. Sam Reed said what always struck him about Eck was what he described as her “wicked sense of humor.”

Reed also commented on what he thought was the unusual closeness of Eck and her siblings.

While Eck lives in the Spiritwood retirement community and is hard of hearing, she still is able to largely take care of herself, said Polly Ek.

Among the residents of Spiritwood, Eck is not alone in reaching the century mark. Resident Paul Beaudry passed that milestone in August of last year. There are at least three more Spiritwood seniors who are 99, said Linda Lee, Spiritwood program director. People are just living longer thanks to better health care, she said.

As for Eck, her birthday celebration didn’t end Feb. 7. She was due for a surprise visit from her three grandchildren and two of her six great-grandchildren later in the week.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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