She’s witnessed 100 years of local change

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Only two years before she was born, Henry Ford rolled his first Model T off the assembly line. She has lived through two world wars (each one meant to end all wars). She’s seen airplanes go from simple clumsy flying machines to sophisticated jets traveling at well over the speed of sound. She weathered the Great Depression. She was around when Alan Shepard, America’s first spaceman, took his historic flight, and watched with the world when American astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. She found simple entertainment before television was invented, and in her time only comic book hero Dick Tracy talked on a phone without a cord. She has seen the computer age come about and has seen medical advances save millions of lives. Ophir resident Marie Pantridge is a centenarian, recently reaching the age of 100. She was born on Aug. 5, 1910. Estimates are 1 in 3,300 people in the United States live to be 100 and that makes Pantridge special. A spry, petite and affectionate woman, full of life, with a twinkle in her eye, she has a gentle personality and seems at peace with almost everything. “I was born in Camino or Placerville at home, I think, I really don’t know,” Pantridge said. Her hearing isn’t what it used to be, she has survived two bouts of cancer, but still maintains a 1,200-square -foot hilltop home in Ophir, doing all her own housework, keeping her flower beds manicured and her yard clean. She shares her home with her little dog, Betty Boop, and family members call or come by almost daily to check in. Pantridge still cooks for herself on the weekends, but takes advantage of Meals on Wheels for her weekday nutrition. Her favorite music is by crooner Dean Martin, and she says, “There is nothing good on TV any more.” Pantridge moved to Auburn in the early 1930s, settling into several homes along old Highway 40, before moving into her current home in Ophir long before Interstate 80 was built. Before her husband got a good job with the highway department, the couple lived and worked mostly in lumber camps. “When the Depression came we didn’t see much difference. We had always been poor,” Pantridge said. “You did what you had to do for work.” Pantridge remembers seeing people living at the American River Confluence during the Depression because they couldn’t afford a house. Pantridge worked at Ann Arbor Bakery, Olsen and McKenzie and Stanton’s Shell stations as a bookkeeper, places only long-time Auburn residents probably remember. She was a cook for the Forestry Department in Colfax, among various other jobs throughout her working career. Pantridge celebrated with two parties on her big day, stunned by the number of guests. Her son Marvin Wilson took her to Michael’s Barber Styling in Auburn to take advantage of owner Michael Lesa’s standing offer of a free haircut to anyone turning 100, and according to Lesa, Pantridge is the only one to take him up on his offer in over 30 years. Pantridge can’t offer a formula for her longevity, other than she was not a drinker or smoker. She likes to have an In-N-Out hamburger on occasion. “I never thought I would live to be 100. I thought 90 would be a good age. You’re just not too sure of yourself after 90,” Pantridge said.