Whoa, Nellie!

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80 -Year-Old Soldier Never Gives In

By DeAnn G. Rossetti

As reprinted by permission of the
Mercer Island Reporter,
Mercer Island, Wash.

(Ed. note: After graduating from the Army’s training college, Nellie served as an officer for a number of years. A life-long Salvationist, she and her husband, Brigadier Alfred Longdon (R) now soldier at the Eastside, Wash., corps.)

“Youth, large, lusty, loving–youth full of grace, force, fascination.
“Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?” (Walt Whitman)

Nellie Tippery Longden is a wonder. She turned 80 this October 11, and yet this petite firecracker of a woman is far from ready for a rocking chair. In fact, she leaves her great-grandchildren in the dust when it comes to living life to its fullest.

Nellie water skis Lake Washington just about every morning at 7 a.m. on one ski, without a wet suit.

“I try to go early before the water gets rough,” she said. “I have the lake to myself, more or less. I ski from June to November; the water starts warming up then and stays warm. Besides, a wet suit is so confining.”

And Nellie has always moved too fast to be confined. “When she was only 14, there was a race to be run,” said her new husband, Albert. “She ran 20 miles the night before, then came back in the morning, ran the race and came in third, and got a commendation. She has been a daring and courageous person all along.”

Born in Colorado, Nellie attended The Salvation Army’s College in San Francisco and got a degree in accounting and personnel, then moved to the Seattle area 60 years ago.

She met her husband, Miles, who joined the Coast Guard in World War II and was stationed in Port Angeles. While in the military, he met another ambitious young man and founded Tektronix, an electronics company, in the 1950s. Though they began by making oscilloscopes, later the company manufactured computers and printers, and is now one of the largest employers in Oregon.

Nellie worked for the company as their employment manager until she became pregnant with her first daughter, then she and her husband sold much of their stock in the company and moved to Orcas Island.

Nellie also owned and operated the Waldorf Hotel in downtown Seattle. “I didn’t even know how to check into a hotel–and the next day I was running it,” she said.

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