Big brothers will show up when their little sisters need them.
On Saturday, Lyal Schlotterbeck marked a century of being there for sister Mildred Smith.
“If I needed help, she was there,” he said. “If she needed help, I was there.”
Smith was celebrating her 100th birthday with friends and family at Little Church on the Prairie.
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Next to her vanilla cake marked with “100” candles was another. That one was chocolate and had “102” on it. On March 24, Schlotterbeck will reach that milestone.
“We were a close family,” Smith said moments after she and her brother blew out their respective candles.
“There were six of us kids,” Smith said. “He was the oldest, I was the next and the other four are gone.”
The siblings, their spouses and their parents moved to the Tacoma area from Iowa in 1936 — during the Great Depression.
“The family was always together,” Smith said.
“I miss them.”
But Saturday, they had each other. They held hands as they visited — mostly in silence.
After 100 years, there isn’t a lot more to say.
“If I knew something, she did too,” Schlotterbeck said.
And the pair have poor hearing.
“I’m just a body among people,” Schlotterbeck said with a laugh.
On Saturday, some of the siblings’ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were on hand for the celebration at the church where Smith once was wedding coordinator.
Schlotterbeck lives in a Puyallup care facility. Smith still lives in the same Lakewood home she’s had for decades. A granddaughter, Jesseana Sinnett, lives with her.
“She’s very family-oriented and driven,” Sinnett said. “That’s what her entertainment is.”
Chief among her pursuits is watching Sinnett’s 2-year-old son, Evan. And crossword puzzles.
Schlotterbeck retired as an electrician at age 87. The reason: “It’s getting hard to go up those ladders,” he told daughter Judy Maass.
“They were never ones to sit down,” Smith’s son Ron said.
The two cousins marveled Saturday at their parents’ longevity, but couldn’t explain it.
“My dad is a very stubborn German, so that keeps him going,” Maass said. “In a way it’s kind of a miracle.”
“Makes me think I’ll be 100,” Ron said.