100 Years of Faith, Fun and Living Day to Day – By: Mary Swift, Seattle P.I. Columnist
ALICE KRABBE KNOWS what it’s like to near the century mark. What she doesn’t know is the secret to how she got there. She’ll say — in a voice still gracious and firm despite her approaching 100th birthday April 30 — that it was a day-to-day affair. Faith, she’ll add, didn’t hurt. Not that faith was always foremost.The third of five children born to German-speaking parents who farmed in Illinois, Krabbe decided early that life behind a plow in Midwest heat was not for her.
She liked people. She liked parties. City lights lured her. At 14, having left school after eighth grade, she ditched the farm and headed to the city, where she rented a small room and found work as a waitress. “She pretty much wanted to kick up her heels, and that’s what she did,” says Rachel Monte, of Renton, Krabbe’s niece. “In the early years, she was a bit of a wild thing, as far as I can tell.”
These days, Krabbe shares a home in Rainier Valley with her sister, Harriet Wood, 86, Monte’s mother. For a young woman escaping rural life, the city proved a heady environment. Her customers included men who bootlegged moonshine between Chicago and St. Louis. World War II started. So, Krabbe thought, did opportunity. She and some friends packed their bags and headed west by train, lured by the possibility of jobs at the naval shipyard in Bremerton. But she never made it to Bremerton, instead landing a job as a waitress at Manka’s Restaurant in Seattle. Eventually, she bought a home in the Burien area. Then came the day her boyfriend walked out. Krabbe, until then a woman who played as hard as she worked, was devastated. The moment proved pivotal. Wood’s husband, the Rev. Harold Wood, was a Pentecostal minister who with his wife started a church in White Center. Later they moved to Rainier Valley, where they ran the Northwest Evangelical Center (eventually renamed the Rainier Temple).
Bereft, Krabbe turned to God — and found adventure on a different path. She became a missionary, traveling alone to Mexico. “She was sent down to Chihuahua to help another missionary with the children,” Harriet Wood says. “She just got a love for the people and went to Monterrey (Mexico). She was down there about 12 years. “Krabbe, Wood says, “was a trouper. We furnished her with a van and lots of missionary tracts, and she’d drive from Seattle to Monterrey all by herself. Now she sits and thinks about it and says, ‘I don’t know how I did that.’ “Perhaps not — but she does know she’s glad she did.
“The most exciting time of my life was going up in the mountains with people I didn’t know to share the Lord,” Krabbe says. “It was exciting and joyful to go into those hills.”But there were frightening moments. Narrow, steep, sharply curved mountain roads — often deeply rutted and, in rain, precariously muddy — made travel treacherous and left drivers white-knuckled. “I drove all the way across the mountains,” Krabbe says, reflecting on those years. “You sometimes wondered if you were going to make it. But it was wonderful, and you felt like you’d accomplished something once you got to where you were going.” Returning to Seattle, Krabbe worked side-by-side with her sister and brother-in-law, driving a Sunday-school bus and later working for the Rainier Valley Christian School the church established.
Saturday, Rachel Monte and her daughter Kristel will host a party for Krabbe at their home in Renton. Krabbe is pleased — though matter-of-fact about the celebration. “I’ve had a good life. I’m here. I have a birthday. It’s the same as any other birthday,” she says. “What’s the secret of a long life? To be truthful, I’ve never thought about it. I just took it a day at a time and went on. That’s how life goes, isn’t it? Just day to day — and every day is different.”
(Nanny’s 100th Birthday Party)
Roman&Alaina – Alice and The Last Hour
©2009 Lavoy Music (ASCAP)