Finnish native made a life here

Ellen Davey, who turned 99 today, Dec. 15, moved to the United States in 1938. - Linda Ball/Staff Photo
Ellen Davey, who turned 99 today, Dec. 15, moved to the United States in 1938.
— image credit: Linda Ball/Staff Photo

Ellen Davey speaks softly with the accent she still has from her native Finland. Yet Finland was a long time ago.

Davey will turn 99 today, Dec. 15, quite a milestone for anyone. She will celebrate with friends at dinner at Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union, where she goes each year, as it extends a free meal to her every year on her birthday.

She was honored recently at the Swedish Club in conjunction with a celebration of Finland’s independence from the Russian empire in 1917.

Davey came to the United States in 1938 when she was a young lady, meeting Harold Davey, a Navy man, through mutual friends. They were married in Seattle in 1943. The couple had friends on Mercer Island who would invite Ellen for weekends on the Island when her husband was overseas.

When Harold was out of the military, they bought property and settled here. Harold, who died in 1986, built the house where Ellen still lives in 1946 and added on to the home in 1954.

It was primitive.

“There was no one out here,” she said.

“We had no electricity; we had a big wooden stove we cooked on and heated everything with,” she explained.

It took some time to get power. Other areas of the Island were a higher priority for power because of the war, she explained.

Harold was a mailman on the Island until he retired. The couple did a great deal of traveling after that.

“He liked the sea,” Davey said of her husband. “We did a lot of cruising.” Unlike today, she said there were only about three cruise lines to choose from.

After the war they also enjoyed the many dances held at the Keewaydin Clubhouse, now the VFW Hall.

“We’d go across to the Roanoke for beer,” she said.

One fond memory she has was winning a 10-day all expense paid trip to Hollywood and the Rose Bowl in 1954. She said the contest was sponsored by the Seattle Times.

“We met all the stars and got to go to the game,” she said. “We had a really good time, but it rained awfully hard.”

When they first lived on the Island, friends from the city would all come out on the weekend. She remembers a young bear getting into their water tank, and all species of animals on the Island, not just vagrants like raccoons and rats.

When asked about changes on the Island, Davey is philosophical.

“The biggest change is it isn’t the same,” she said.

She moves a little slower now, but who wouldn’t at 99? The hardest part for her is the holidays and Sundays because most of her contemporaries and family are gone.

“I don’t know who is going to last longer — me or the house, but so long as I get a little help, I’m OK.”

But with her great attitude, she’ll be celebrating her 100th birthday next year.

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