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Longview WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday with parade

Wilma Jean Engebretson couldn’t have the big party her family had planned because of the pandemic, but that didn't stop them from celebrating.

LONGVIEW, Wash. — In her sparkly party hat, bundled-up underneath a tent in her Longview driveway, Wilma Jean Engebretson celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by, yet socially distanced from, her family.

It was a wet and windy day for an outdoor celebration, but if the pandemic couldn’t stop her family from honoring Engebretson, neither would the weather.

The pandemic has changed birthdays this year and it definitely put a damper on plans for a big party. However, it was a centennial celebration she and her family won’t soon forget.

Her children and grandchildren put on a socially distant parade. Family member after family member shuffling by to see their matriarch ahead of her official birthday on Oct. 12.

They sang the "happy birthday" song from the sidewalk. Of course, there was cake, but it’s a little tough to blow out the candles with a mask on.

Jean, as she goes by, has done a lot of living in her ten decades. She is one of a slimming number of living World War II veterans. A captain in the Army Corps of nurses, Engebretson served with the 168th General Hospital in France after landing at Omaha Beach in September 1944. While in France she met her husband, and they started to build their family.

When asked what her secret to a long life is, she said, “My secret? I'll just keep on living, that's all.”