A Mercer Island woman is celebrating a special birthday this month. Great grandmother Kate — Aagot Kate (Norman) Rosellini — is turning 106 years old.
What does she want for her birthday wish this year?
“A big warm hug,” she said.
Her secret for how she reached 106 years?
“I’ve been treated well,” she said.
“I’ve been a good girl,” she added with a grin.
Kate was born Aagot Kate Norman on Dec. 30, 1913, in Hawkesbury, Ontario in Canada. Her parents, Anna Horn and Sigurd Norman, were from Norway.
Shortly after her sister Anna Norman was born in 1916, their mother died. The girls and their father moved back to stay with family in Norway.
Sigurd married Kate’s mother’s sister, Aagot (for whom Kate was named) in 1919. Kate and Anna grew up with their aunt as their beloved mother raising them. The couple had three more children together: Tom, Inga and Grace. Kate has survived all her siblings.
Their father was a pulp mill engineer, and so the family moved frequently for his job. They even spent some time living in Brazil, then in Norway again, and eventually came to America.
Sigurd went ahead to start in his new job and Aagot and the children followed soon after. Their passenger ship, the Bergensfjord, from Norway to the United States caught fire on July 26, 1924, and had to turn around.
But then they did sail, from Sweden, and landed in New York. They lived in Michigan for a while, where Kate attended her first American school. Then they lived in Quebec, then moved to Tacoma, then Newberg, Ore., then Everett.
Kate had crossed the ocean four times by ship before she was 12.
Kate graduated from Everett High School in 1932. She took a job as a nurse’s aide at Providence Hospital in Seattle and then enrolled in nursing school at the University of Washington in 1934, graduating in 1938.
Working at Harborview Medical Center she met then intern Leo John Rosellini, a young doctor. They became fast friends and were married Nov. 9, 1939. Kate would become a busy stay-at-home mom for their four children: Jack, Sandy, Taale and Mary Ann.
Kate also has 11 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.
Leo died in 1981. Kate later created in his memory the Kate Norman Rosellini and Leo John Rosellini, M.D., Endowed Scholarship for nursing students at the University of Washington.
“She’s a great mom,” said daughter Mary Ann Flynn, who also is a Mercer Island resident.
When Flynn’s granddaughter, Kate — named for her great-grandma Aagot Kate — was celebrating the 100th Day in her kindergarten class at Island Park Elementary School, great-grandma Kate attended for show and tell so the kids could see what 100 looks like and answered all their questions and told her story.
She did this a second time for her great-grandson Charlie.
All the great-grandchildren call her, “Bestemama,” which Flynn said is an honorable name for great-grandmothers.
“Some day I might be one,” Flynn said.
Kate now lives on Mercer Island in an adult family home with five other senior residents. A young family lives there, too: caretakers Rodica and Mihai Malinoschi and their 7-year-old daughter Ingrid.
Ingrid and Kate have become the best of friends. Her parents say Ingrid never leaves for school without giving Kate a kiss goodbye and they frequently play together.
“We sometimes think they have the same spirit,” Rodica said. She explained how seeing photos of Kate when she was younger reminds her of her daughter’s characteristics and personality qualities today.
They both have the same positive energy of always looking to take on the next task and go out and do something, Rodica said.
“Kate is special. We are really blessed to have her here,” Rodica said. “She’s one of a kind. She sees the beautiful.”
“She’s always nice, thankful and has a good attitude,” Mihai said, saying they are all like family.
Flynn and the couple explained that Kate likes to look nice and have fun. She loves sparkles and enjoys music.
In her younger days, she traveled and also played a lot of golf and tennis. She was an avid skier and swimmer as well. She said she still likes those activities.
“She’s always been open to trying new things,” Flynn said. “Her strength was always being willing to learn and not accepting not knowing how to do something.”
When asked if she’s happy, Kate smiled and replied, “Do I look mad?”
Flynn said she often makes fun little jokes and is a positive person. She said her mom is always looking for fun.
Chelsea Nov, one of the owners of the house, said of Kate, “She’s fabulous. I love seeing her bright eyes, and she’s very positive.”
She said everyone there feels fortunate to know her.
“To have somebody who’s lived that long is rare, and it’s special they have all that history,” Nov said.
“She’s been a blessing to this house,” Rodica said.
Upon learning she was being interviewed by a reporter, Kate said, of the job, “Wow, that’s interesting. That opens up so many new paths for you.”