Longtime county resident stays busy sewing, making music
RIVERSIDE – Longtime Okanogan County resident Lorraine Green celebrated her 99th birthday Oct. 20.
Green, who lives at Golden Years Adult Family Home just outside Riverside, stays busy with sewing and playing piano for fellow residents, said her daughter, Connie Sherman.
“I never once thought of getting this old,” said Green. “It kind of snuck up on me … I’m so thankful to have reached that 99, and still have my mind and my memories.”
“She’s pretty amazing,” said Sherman. “She’s the matriarch of Tunk Valley,” where she lived for many years.
“She took up making masks for many people because of COVID-19 and also continues making shopping bags, which she said was to save the world from all the plastic bags that were filling up the landfills and oceans,” said her family in a written history of her life. “She is still making lap robes for the ‘elderly’ and does alterations and mending for the staff, friends and family.”
Because COVID-19 precluded a large celebration, Green marked her birthday week with small gatherings of family members. The celebration is continuing this week.
“Lorraine spends her days encouraging others and finding ways to overcome stress the years has brought her way,” said Golden Years officials. “She is a true beauty, we love her and are so grateful to be a part of her special day. We all can’t wait for the next year.”
Green said she’s “so thankful I’m still able to do things and keep busy. That’s what’s kept me going.”
Her mask and shopping bag projects are among the things she does to keep busy. So far she’s made more that 200 of each.
“I got worried about the environment,” she said of the shopping bag project. “All my family and friends and others are well-supplied.”
She has always loved to sew, making her first dress when she was 11 years old without a pattern. She made quilts for every family member, including grandchildren and great grandchildren, and has donated quilts to organizations for fundraisers.
Green also loves crafts, including painting rocks and making them into flowers and little animals such as deer, turtles, ladybugs and so on.
“She has a beautiful voice and a love for music, playing the piano and guitar and sing-alongs, and even participating in karaoke at her family reunions,” said the family.
Green was born Leata Lorraine Atchison on Oct. 20, 1921, to Sidney Gustin Atchison and Virtue Elizabeth Pratt in Aeneas Valley, according to a personal history by Green and family members. She joined three older brothers: Lloyd and twins Charlie and Arlie.
During the Great Depression, the family moved often to find work. She started grade school at Tonasket, attended one year at Sunnyslope, three years at the one-room Rupert School in Aeneas Valley and then returned to Tonasket for the eighth grade and high school.
She was born with weak ankles and flat feet and, when she had a spurt of growth at age 11, her bones were not strong enough. She had surgery on both feet when she was 12 years old, traveling by herself on the train to Seattle. She has had to wear special shoes and inlays for the rest of her life.
At age 16, when her mother was being treated for cancer in Spokane, Green took over the cookhouse, cooking for 18 people morning and night, and made lunch for up to 30. She did all the baking - she learned to make bread when she was 9.
In 1938, her parents adopted a baby sister, Sandra, and Green married shortly after that. She married Clifford H. Vance on Sept. 17, 1938. They both worked that fall at the Haines Box Factory in Aeneas Valley, where she had worked the previous year.
They ran a cattle ranch for most of their life together. They had three children, Michael in 1942, Terrance in 1946 and Connie in 1948.
In 1951 they moved to Tonasket and he went into the service station business with his brother, Everett.
For many years their favorite pastime was square dancing. She taught other children square dancing and their own three children also participated. They did exhibition dances for nursing homes and other locations.
She also worked in the office at St. Martin’s Hospital, now North Valley Hospital, in Tonasket.
The couple separated and later divorced in 1958.
On June 13, 1959, she married Virgil A. Green and acquired three step-children and became an instant grandma. He had been born in Tunk Valley and always wanted to have a ranch there. They purchased the Harry Figlenski ranch, and raised cattle, hay and kids.
Cattle prices went down about that time and a disease in the cattle cut deeply into their profits. He took jobs logging to bring in extra cash and she did upholstery in their basement for 14 years.
She also worked in the apple sheds in the fall to make Christmas money.
After her brother Arlie was killed in a truck accident, she realized that life was fleeting and if she was ever going to paint, as she had always wanted to, she had better start. She painted in between her other work and, with her husband’s encouragement, enjoyed every minute of it, the family said.
She has sold many of her paintings, but especially enjoys giving them as gifts, said the family. She has painted many special pictures for people: The place someone was born, an old homestead or a favorite scene from a trip.
Green and her second husband wrote “Valley Memories,” a book about Tunk Valley that has sold many copies through the Okanogan County Historical Society and senior centers in Omak and Okanogan.
The couple moved to Riverside and then up Tunk Valley near Tunk Mountain. Virgil Green died of leukemia on Feb. 23, 2001.
In 2002, she moved to Omak to be closer to doctors and senior centers. She lived there for five years, then moved to Tunk Valley with her daughter and son-in-law for 12 years.
In August 2019 she decided to move to Golden Years.
“They’re so good here,” Green said. “It’s a real family-like place.”