Lula Gardner, a 107-year-old pioneer of the Loomis-Tonasket area, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, after a brief illness. She was born Aug. 4, 1906, at the family home on Sinlahekin Creek near Loomis, Wash.
Lula was the youngest of seven children born to Robert A. Garrett, a native of N.C., and Mary Ellen (Brown) Garrett of Ore. Lula was raised with two sisters, Elva Garrett-Rainey and Neva Garrett-Webster and also two brothers, Raleigh James “Doc” Garrett and Bert Raymond Garrett. She also had a sister, Rita, and a brother, Robert Linton, who died in infancy. All were born in the 1890s except for Lula, the baby.
In 1906, when Lula was six months old, the family home burned down, forcing them to move several times until finally settling up Horse Spring Coulee in 1912.
Her father gave School District 77 permission to build the “Bungalow School” for grades one through eight on a corner of his property. This is where Lula and her siblings received their education. Lula also learned to work in the garden, with livestock, set groundhog traps, ride horses and help out on the family farm. It was hard work but she loved it. She attended school with, went on horseback rides with, and later married the son of their closest neighbor, Samuel Richard “Dick” Burbery.
Lula and Dick were married Aug. 20, 1924, when Lula turned 18. In those days you could marry the same day you got your license, so Dick and Lula drove from Loomis to the courthouse in Okanogan, got a license and then stopped to see Rev. Pugh in Omak on the way home and got “hitched.” They made their home on the Burbery family ranch and over the next 10 years, added four sons and three daughters to their family. Harold Richard was born in 1925; Ellen Grace, 1926; John Leslie, 1927; Iris May, 1929; Charles Glen, 1930; Robert Lloyd, 1932 and Katherine Joy, 1934. It was hard work raising a large family. They didn’t have the luxury of an indoor bathroom, telephone or electricity until the 1940s. It meant a big garden, lots of canning, overalls to mend, socks to darn and shoes to patch. All four sons served in the military and all seven children eventually married and raised their own families.
After the kids left home they sold most of their milk cows; raising chickens, sheep, hay and a much smaller garden with the help of kids and grandkids. In 1972 Lula and Dick went to England, where Dick’s family had originated. They were able to see the old family homes, farms and English gardens as well as meet extended family. Three months after returning home and after 48 wonderful years of marriage Dick passed away on Aug. 30, due to a stroke.
In December of 1973 Lula moved into Tonasket, where she met and later married Chett Gardner on Aug. 20, 1974; this date would have been Dick and Lula’s 50th wedding anniversary.
She said it worked so well the first time she would try it again. Lula and Chett enjoyed each other’s company. He taught her how to drive and they loved to travel. They saw the rainforest, went to Alaska, and made a trip to Missouri. They spent most of 10 winters in Quartzsite, Ariz., until a storm destroyed the home there. In 1983 they settled permanently in Tonasket. Three days after Lula’s 85th birthday, Chett passed away on Aug. 7, 1991, just short of their 17th wedding anniversary.
Lula wanted to make one last trip; so with daughters, Ellen and Joy and her granddaughter Barbara, they went to North Carolina, to visit her dad’s relatives.
They saw tobacco fields, dairy farms, and met lots of family; but the best part of the trip was to visit the still-standing family home where her dad was raised and have a picnic lunch there. A fantastic trip! She kept in touch with the family and some came to her 100th birthday celebration as well as others.
About 20 years ago, the Burbery family members began celebrating Lula’s birthday in the Tonasket City Park. They did this right up through last year, when she turned 107. She looked forward to each year when she could visit and see everyone, especially “the little ones” wearing a big smile and clapping her hands.
Lula had an amazing memory and was happy to share her tales and history of the family with anyone who wanted to listen. Family and friends were of the utmost importance to her and she knew each and every one of them. She just loved life itself.
She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and was the only mother her family knew who was still able to tell her kids what to do even though they are now all in their 80s! She was a “Grand Ol’ Lady.”
With the help of her children, Lula remained in her home in Tonasket until just before her 105th birthday, when after a brief illness she made her new home at the North Valley Nursing Center in Tonasket. Here she was visited by groups of school children wanting to meet her and ask questions about what life was like during her 100-plus years. Based on figures from a 2010 Census, her family believes she may have been the oldest remaining resident of Okanogan County.
Preceding her in death besides her parents, her siblings and both of her husbands were her two eldest daughters, Iris Michaels (1992) and Ellen Stotts (2012); one granddaughter; three grandsons; one daughter-in-law; and a son-in-law.
To celebrate her life, Lula leaves behind all four of her sons, Harold (Mary) Burbery of Ukiah, Calif.; John Burbery, Chuck (Dickie) Burbery, and Lloyd (Barb) Burbery all of Tonasket; one daughter, Joy (Buck) Workman of Okanogan. Also remaining are 15 grandchildren (ages 50-70); 28 (4th generation) great grandchildren; 17 (5th generation) great-great grandchildren; one (6th
generation) great-great-great granddaughter; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, as well as the Gardner family.
Services will be Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at 2 p.m. at Bergh’s Funeral Chapel in Oroville, Wash., with Lloyd Caton officiating. Interment will follow at the Loomis Mountain View Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Loomis Mountain View Cemetery P.O. Box 55 Loomis, WA 98827. Bergh Funeral Services of Oroville/Tonasket is in care of arrangements.