Irene Fleming was the center of attention at Sunrise Senior Living on Sept. 3 as pieces of cake were being passed around and cameras were flashing during her 103rd birthday celebration.
“I can’t tell you it’s any different from 102,” said Fleming, of turning 103, surrounded by friends, neighbors, former colleagues, Sunrise staff and daughter Jean Strasburger. They remembered how Fleming attended every service at the Mercer Island United Methodist Church, that she drove until just a few years ago, that she has made a total of 26 quilts.
When asked about advice for the years, Fleming motioned to a printout on the cake table: her motto, a five-stanza poem titled “The House by the Side of the Road,” by Sam Walter Foss, which begins with: “There are hermit souls that live withdrawn / In the place of their self-content; / There are souls like stars, that dwell apart, / In a fellowless firmament; / There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths / Where highways never ran / But let me live by the side of the road / And be a friend to man.”
Fleming was born in 1906 in Dallas, Texas, where she grew up on a farm — the oldest girl of five children. She moved to Mercer Island, where her daughter also lives, in 1981, and is the grandmother of four and great-grandmother of six.