In her cozy Oak Harbor cottage, Doris Janz is sitting at her kitchen table, trying to put a finger on the secret to her longevity when her daughter motions across the room.
Next to Janz on the kitchen counter are seven neatly decorated glass jars filled with M&M’s. Janz has trouble keeping her fingers out of them.
“She eats chocolate constantly and M&M’s are the latest but only the mint ones,” her daughter Kathy Morse said. “Mint M&M’s and See’s Candies.”
“I think they’re quite good,” Janz added.
When you’re approaching 100 years old, you can smile at anyone who might question your sweet tooth.
Doris Janz owns a sweet smile and grateful heart. She shrugs when trying to explain how she’s managed to live a century.
She celebrates her 100th birthday Sunday, but the party will come a day early and be a shared occasion with Janz’s great-great granddaughter Tenley Gidlofl, who’s turning 1.
“When I was young, I thought I’d live maybe into my 70s or 80s,” she said, “but here I am still kicking.”
Janz pointed to her right eye, noting that she has diminished vision due to macular degeneration.
Told 10 years ago that she was legally blind and could no longer drive, she moved from Tacoma to Oak Harbor to be closer to family.
But she didn’t lose her sense of independence.
Despite her diminished sight, Janz lives alone in a two-bedroom home in a senior development, though Morse and her husband stop by regularly to help look after her needs.
Although Tacoma, where she lived since she was 4, will always be home, Janz’s attachment to her new cottage became clear two years ago when she learned it was going to be put up for sale.
She bought it — at the age of 98.
“She was not going to move anymore,” Morse said. “How often do they give a 30-year mortgage to a 100-year-old lady?”
Janz’s new home is familiar — a key quality for a person who has trouble seeing. And it’s comfortable.
It is filled with the things she loves — her vast collection of owls and, most notably, her own paintings.
She loves to paint.
“I started painting when I was in my 50s and I never stopped,” said Janz, who was married to her husband Walter for 60 years before he passed. “I still make my own Christmas cards.
“That’s why I hated to leave Tacoma. All of my friends were artists and my other friends were church people. They’re leaving one by one.”
Janz’s diminished sight has made painting much more challenging in recent years, but she’s still at it. She paints with watercolors now. For years, she painted with oils and also was involved with Japanese ink painting known as sumi-e.
Every year, she turns one of her paintings into Christmas cards. Last Christmas was no different.
“I don’t do big paintings anymore,” Janz said, noting her sight. “I can still read as long as I use a magnifying glass.”
“Her house is full of her paintings,” Morse said, “as well as everyone else’s house in the family.”
A native of Ritzville, in Eastern Washington, Janz was the third of seven children. All have passed except her.
“I eat normal food,” Janz said.
“Vegetables, chicken, very little beef.”
“She eats whatever she wants,” Morse chimed in.
The jars full of M&M’s are evidence.
“I still have my own teeth by the way,” Janz said. “You have to be careful with them. They are over 90-years-old.”