Montclair kicks up its heels for center’s first centenarian

POULSBO — The sounds of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Someone’s in The Kitchen with Dinah” floated through the air as Montclair Park residents prepared to celebrate one of their own.

The only thing left was to get guest of honor Peg Spillinger celebrating.

“To be honest, we’re having trouble convincing her it’s really her 100th birthday,” son Ralph Spillinger commented with a chuckle.

But 100 she was.

And for the staff at Montclair Park, which will mark its second year in business this May, the event was also a reason to celebrate. Spillinger was the first of the facility’s residents to turn 100 while living there. Staff let loose and cut a rug with the dozens of residents who showed up to wish the birthday girl well.

“Everybody got really excited,” said general manager Gail Zink of the event. “We’ve been planning this for quite a while to make sure it was very special.”

Spillinger, who has called Kitsap County home for about 10 years, has come a long way since her birth in Linden, N.J. on Jan. 27, 1904. A former school teacher in New Jersey, she married childhood friend Harry Gordon Spillinger in 1927 and became an Air Force wife. The family’s travels took her to Japan (where she taught English conversation at Waseda University); Cape Canaveral; Washington, D.C.; and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The couple later lived in Bellevue for about 30 years. After Harry died at the age of 92, Spillinger moved to North Kitsap to be closer to family, including her sons Ralph of Bainbridge Island and Gordon and Maxine of Port Orchard.

Today, she’s a well-known personality around Montclair Park in Poulsbo, which she’s called home for about a year and a half.

“She’s a joy,” said therapist Patti Engh, who said she’s one of Spillinger’s favorite staff members at Montclair Park. “She knows exactly what she wants. She’s a real sweetheart.”

“She’s delightful,” Zink added. “She’s just a sweet, special person.”

When Spillinger moved into the Poulsbo retirement center’s memory care unit last year, she brought her own piano, which she often plays for the enjoyment of her neighbors. Ralph said his mother is self-taught in tickling the ivories and can play just about any song. At the age of 100, she still has excellent eyesight and a great sense of humor.

“And believe it or not, she’s not medicated at all, not even aspirin,” Ralph commented. “We’re all hoping we inherited those genes.”

Ralph and his sister Barbara were on hand Tuesday to help their mother celebrate with her fellow residents. Gordon and Maxine were there in spirit, and sent their son John to represent their family. Ralph said his mother had long said she thought she’d live to see 100, but the experience was still a very unique one for all of them.

“It’s wonderful,” Ralph commented. “We’ve been so lucky. Dad died at 92 and now mom’s made it to 100. It’s been so good having family together for so long.”

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