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Life of the party gets the party of a lifetime

POULSBO — “Oh, I want a little bungalow, where the red, red roses grow,” Al McCrary’s voice flitted through the room of well wishers on his 100th birthday this week.

When he was finished with his song, the room erupted into laughter and clapping.

“He is a born ham,” son Ron McCrary said with a chuckle.

From his mischievous smile to his wry sense of humor, Al McCrary is one of the more colorful members of the Liberty Shores assisted living community in Poulsbo. So it wasn’t a wonder that his 100th birthday festivities would be filled with fellow residents and staff who dropped in to see him in action.

“I always listen for Al’s voice in the hallway,” said one resident who stopped by.

Although he was born in Georgia, McCrary is perhaps as much a part of the Kitsap Peninsula as one can get.

His family moved to Washington in 1910 when his father was hired to operate the telegraph at the Seattle World’s Fair. The family settled in the Seattle area and Al, the fifth child of seven, attended schools in Green Lake and then the University of Washington.

“I was always the teacher’s pet,” he remembered with a mischievous grin that belied the truth of his childhood. “I was always the best behaved.”

During school vacations, McCrary worked as a deck hand on the Mosquito Fleet’s “Vashon,” where he first became acquainted with the Kitsap Peninsula.

He eventually worked in real estate in the Seattle area, managing properties for some of the most wealthy land owners in the region.

“It used to be that everybody would call him if they needed anything in the Seattle area because he knew where the best real estate was,” recounted daughter Gloria Pomtier.

Although he lived most of his adult life in the Seattle area, McCrary fell in love with the look of the Suquamish waterfront and bought property there after his retirement. The home he and his wife Thelma lived in was one of the first built on Angeline Avenue.

And by no means did retirement slow McCrary down.

As a Suquamish resident he worked actively on the construction of Chief Seattle Park and also helped workers site the very first sewer line along the Suquamish waterfront. Until Thelma’s death, the couple’s hobbies included bowling, golf and playing tennis as well.

“She was the champ and I was the chump,” McCrary recalled of his tennis experience with his state champion tennis player wife.

Today, as a resident of Liberty Shores, he enjoys dancing, singing and just generally hamming it up with residents and staff members alike. Without blushing, he also admitted that he enjoys flirting with the ladies to this day.

“I like the girls best, the men are just luggage,” he remarked with a grin.

He also enjoys laughing and making others laugh.

At his party, he got a good chuckle making faces and sticking his finger in his ear for the camera. He razzed Liberty Shores staff as they came and went, but admitted that he loves where he lives.

“There’s no place that I’d rather be than where I am now, you look out and you see this beautiful body of blue water and ducks come by here,” McCrary said.

His birthday was also a chance to reminisce with a handful of his three children, eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren who also gathered to wish him well. Though his family wouldn’t tell what they’d gotten him for his birthday, McCrary said he had one wish for this momentous occasion.

“I asked for them to make me 10 again,” he recalled of his answer to family queries about what he wanted for his birthday. “That was my prime.”

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