When you walk into a room and see Helen Lochridge’s bright and sparkling smile, you would never guess she turned 100 years old on September 29. “I have had the most wonderful life,” she said with a glint in her eye that denotes happiness with no regret, but rather indicates a full and well-lived life. A longtime resident of Gig Harbor, Helen enjoys the small community feel and the joy that comes with knowing your neighbors and surroundings for a long time.
Born in 1916 in Burns, Oregon where her family homesteaded, Helen’s family moved to the Seattle area after her father passed away. It was there that she met the love of her life, Frank Lochridge, when she was 21 years old. Their love story began when Helen, a bookkeeper, worked for Frank who owned a wholesale refrigerated ice cream company called the Auburn Ice Cream Company.
One day Frank asked Helen to dinner, and they turned out to be a great match. She cherishes the memories she shared with him as she describes Frank saying he was “a wonderful and very kind man; a real people person. He had the kind of personality everyone could relate to.” They were blessed to enjoy 51 years of marriage before Frank passed away.
When reminiscing about her and Frank’s life together, Helen said it was a life on the move. Following the sale of Auburn Ice Cream Company, the couple built three different boats during the course of their marriage and took up the life of commercial fishing in Alaska. It was quite a dramatic change from the ice cream business. The first two boats they built were the smallest of the three. Of course, one was named after Helen. The third and largest boat they built, christened The Hustler, was eventually sold to the United Nations.
Helen and Frank ran their boats out of Oregon and Seattle, fishing for king and silver salmon. Helen describes that in those days the fishing was far different; it was done with piano wire and stainless steel lines. But they were successful and the fish they caught and sold provided them with a good living.
But it was not always smooth sailing so to speak. Helen shares that at times the waters were rough and Frank would tell her, “The boat can always stand more than we can.” As she recalls her adventurous life, Helen shares that during World War II there were more restrictions for fishing vessels. She said it was required that lights had to be turned out at night and recalls a particularly eerie incident where a submarine surfaced and then went underwater while passing their boat. Helen was not sure which country the submarine belonged to.
Helen and Frank’s life in Gig Harbor began in the early 1950s when a friend of theirs shared what a wonderful community it was. After living here 64 years, Helen is grateful for the place she calls home and talks about the many changes she has witnessed. Sixty-four years ago Gig Harbor had a population of about 2,000, and the businesses were a dentist office and a general store. Highway 16 was not the paved busy highway that it is now. The favorite restaurant in town was Pearl’s. Helen said the famous Skansie brothers were her neighbors. And adding to Helen and Frank’s adventure was living on their boat while building their home which overlooked the harbor.
Laughing, Helen said “You get tired of living on a boat for a while, and look for something a little more permanent.” One memory Helen recalls is when Mt. St. Helens erupted. She remembers the coating of ash and said it was quite a sight to see it close up.
Helen’s and Frank’s “life on the move” included traveling to warmer destinations in the country such as Texas and New Mexico; however their favorite destination ended up being Southern California in the Coachella Valley. Frank and Helen would spend the winters in warm Southern California golfing. They both loved to golf and shared several similar interests. She recalls traveling extensively, including spending a couple of months in Hawaii.
These days Helen enjoys watching the yachts, fishing boats and kayaks go by her waterfront home. She says she did everything on her bucket list and has no regrets. And though they did not have children of their own, Helen said she has been blessed with a wonderful family of nieces and nephews.
So just what is the key to living a long life? According to Helen, it is to be passionate about what you do and spend your time doing it. She is glad she and Frank settled in Gig Harbor and enjoys the active lifestyle she still has and her circle of friends and neighbors. Helen is a true inspiration. Congratulations Helen and happy 100th birthday!