For someone celebrating her 108th birthday today, Catherine Reed is in remarkable shape. She climbs out of her wheelchair, stands on her New Balance sneakers and, laughing, touches her toes, at the request of her daughter.

Share story

Her face is lined with deep rivulets, a shock of white hair springs from her head and she answers only to shouts because her hearing is almost gone.

But for someone celebrating her 108th birthday today, Catherine Reed is in remarkable shape. She climbs out of her wheelchair, stands on her New Balance sneakers and, laughing, touches her toes, at the request of her daughter, Barbara Gibson.

Reed lives in a Bothell nursing home, but as recently as last June she was living in her own Bothell home. When she was in her 90s and until she was 103, Reed regularly walked three miles on the Burke-Gilman Trail from Bothell to Woodinville to do her grocery shopping. She was a familiar sight on the trail, and many trail regulars would greet her, calling her Katie, Gibson said.

No records are kept, but Reed could be among the oldest people in the state. Born in St. Louis, she moved to Washington state in 1989 to be close to Gibson and her family. She has three children, all born 10 years apart: Frank Reed is 89, Jimmy Reed is 79, and Gibson is 68. Reed’s husband died 30 years ago.

Born in 1902, Reed has seen a lot of history. Gibson points out that her mother was alive when the Titanic sank in 1912. Gibson took her to the exhibit when it came to Seattle.

Reed remembers the day Herbert Hoover visited her town — he was elected president when she was 26 — but she can’t remember whether she voted for him.

Reed went to school only through the ninth grade, and she eloped at 17. Over the six decades she and her husband were married, they operated restaurants and motels in Missouri and New Mexico.

When Reed was 101, her family took her to San Francisco, and she walked the length of the Golden Gate Bridge — close to a mile.

Reed loved her independence, and she loved to walk, and maybe, suggests her daughter, that might have contributed to her longevity. That and her belief in God and maybe, good genes.

Reed shrugs off questions about her longevity.

“The good Lord is the one who gives you your time,” she said. “I don’t want to make any fuss about it. I’m just an old woman.”

What’s life like at 108? Reed still finds pleasure in family and food. She likes to play Uno with her family, and she loves to eat. She’s a big fan of McDonald’s, and she’s equally fond of KFC.

Reed’s family is throwing a party for her today, and Reed said maybe she’ll dance. Afterward, there will be dinner at KFC, a special treat.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com