Okanogan County’s ‘oldest’ resident dies at age 107

Lula Gardner was a lifelong resident of Tonasket area

— One of the oldest residents of Okanogan County died last Wednesday.

Lula Gardner, who was 107, died at North Valley Extended Care, 22 W. First St., after spending most of her life in the Tonasket area.

Her family said they checked statistics with the state Office of Financial Management and believe she was the county’s oldest resident.

The state’s oldest resident is Poulsbo resident Emma Otis, who turned 112 last October.

Gardner remained in her own home in Tonasket until just before her 105th birthday, when she moved to North Valley Extended Care.

Her daughter, Joy Workman of Okanogan, said children from the Tonasket schools visited her at North Valley.

“She talked about changes since she was a child,” Workman said, citing a lack of electricity and other amenities. “She enjoyed the visits.”

Workman said her mother didn’t talk much about why she lived so long. “Maybe it was the way she lived,” she said.

Gardner was sharp, mentally, until her death, although her eyesight had failed.

Granddaughter Rene Hinderer, of LaCrosse, remembers her grandmother as a no-nonsense, practical woman.

“She was never one to whine and fuss about anything,” she said. “She didn’t feel sorry for herself.”

Hinderer recalled her grandmother’s matter-of-fact attitude about dealing with pack rats in the attic, including interrupting her cooking of breakfast one morning to deal with a rat that had just been caught in a trap.

Gardner kept a baseball bat out back so she could finish off a trapped rat. The carcass was then tossed up the hill for the coyotes to find.

Her family said she loved life and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She was the only mother her family knew who was able to tell her children what to do, even though they’re all in their 80s now.

Gardner outlived two husbands, to whom she was married for a total of 65 years.

She was born Aug. 4, 1906, at the family home on Sinlahekin Creek near Loomis.

She was the youngest of seven children.

When she was 6 months old, the family home burned down and the family moved several times before settling in Horse Spring Coulee in 1912. She attended the Bungalow School, which was on a corner of the family property.

Over the years, she worked in the garden and with livestock, set groundhog traps, rode horses and helped on the farm.

She married Samuel Richard “Dick” Burbery, the son of their closest neighbor, on Aug. 20, 1924.

They lived on the Burbery ranch for 10 years.

“They didn’t have the luxury of an indoor bathroom, telephone or electricity until the 1940s,” the family said, drawing on information in “My Life,” which Gardner wrote for her family. Electricity to her home came first via generator; electrical service didn’t come until 1960.

In 1972, the Burberys traveled to England to see where his family had originated. He died three months after their return. They had been married 48 years.

Two years later, on what would have been her 50th anniversary with Dick Burbery, she married Chett Gardner.

“She said it worked so well the first time, she would try it again,” the family said.

He taught her to drive, and they loved to travel. They visited Alaska and Missouri, and spent most of 10 winters in Quartzite, Ariz., until a storm destroyed their home there. They moved to Tonasket in 1983. He died Aug. 7, 1991, just before their 17th anniversary.

After that, she and her daughters, Ellen and Joy, and a granddaughter, Barbara, traveled to North Carolina to visit her father’s relatives. She kept in touch with the family and some came to her 100th birthday celebration and others.

She is survived by four sons, Harold Burbery of Ukiah, Calif., and John, Chuck and Lloyd Burbery, all of Tonasket; a daughter, Joy Workman of Okanogan; 15 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; 17 great-great grandchildren; one great-great-great granddaughter, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and the Gardner family.

A service will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Bergh’s Funeral Chapel in Oroville. Interment will follow at Loomis Mountain View Cemetery.


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