At 102 and counting, Zindt exudes a zest for life fueled both by her rich experiences and her insatiable appetite for adventure.
Hers has been long life well-lived. Shes worked and traveled around the world, logged hundreds of miles in her hiking and climbing shoes, and parlayed her keen memory into an entertaining memoir entitled My First Hundred Years.
I just tried to keep active its been a wonderful life, she said.
I met Zindt last week in her cozy apartment at the Colonial Inn retirement center in Olympia. Just a year removed from independent living she is the inns oldest resident.
For the next 90 minutes, stories of her life rolled off her tongue, punctuated with the occasional chuckle, followed by its kind of a long story.
Long indeed, when you consider it started with her birth on Dec. 12, 1910, in the town of DuPont where her father was employed at the DuPont Powder Co. explosives plant. The work didnt suit him, so he left the company and purchased an 80-acre farm on Reservation Road near the Nisqually Valley.
One of five children, Mary attended the one-room McAllister school house with one teacher for grades one through eight. When she graduated in 1925, she was the schools only eighth-grader.
A favorite family fall outing was huckleberry picking at Hawks Prairie, Zindt recalled in her memoir. Dad always took a shotgun to protect us from bears.
After Mary finished grade school, the family moved to Lacey. She never finished high school, but enrolled in Olympia Business College where she became proficient at typing and shorthand. She worked a number of jobs around town Rexall Drug Store and Ready Mix Concrete before hiring on to type drivers licenses for the state Department of Licensing.
She took a civil service exam and was hired in 1938 by the U.S. Department of Treasury to work in Washington, D.C. When war broke out between Great Britain and Germany she accepted a transfer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Olympia and later, during World War II, worked for the U.S. Department of Armys Air Transport Command at Boeing Field in Seattle.
After the war she joined the Washington Alpine Club in Seattle and became an avid hiker, climbing Mount St. Helens in 1950.
The world began to open up to Mary when she accepted a civil service job in 1955 at the Tokyo Army Hospital in Japan. During her three-year stay in Japan, she climbed Mount Fuji and Mount Shirouma, explored Japanese national parks and traveled by cruise ship to Manila and Hong Kong.
Next came a one-year stint with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Karachi, Pakistan.
We were warned to stay away from the bazaar on Thursdays because the lepers were allowed to come on that day, she said in her memoir.
Again, weekends and vacation were used to explore the countryside, from the valley of Kashmir to Kabul, Afghanistan across the Khyber Pass, hitching a ride with a road-building engineer from the United States.
I hitchhiked with my tongue, not my thumb, she said.
In June of 1959, she transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters office in Livorno, Italy near Pisa on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The City of Livorno was said to be 90 percent Communists, she recalled. During an Italian election there were banners above the main city streets, asking the citizens to Vote Communista.
For three years, Livorno was a launch pad for European and Middle East adventures: Evening boat rides on the Danube River in Austria. Easter Sunday mass in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Shopping the bazaars of Damascus, Syria. Changing of the Queens guards in London. You get the picture: Mary Zindt has the soul of an explorer.
She returned to the Pacific Northwest in 1963, and retired from her final job with the U.S. Post Office Department in 1966. In retirement, she went on road trips with her dad, who lived to the age of 97, hiked and played bridge with her lady friends, volunteered at area nursing homes and painted.
At 102, her health is remarkable. She takes one pill to control her blood pressure and walks with aid only because she fell and broke her hip escaping a disturbed hornets nest in 2009.
Shes not a big fan of the Technological Age, and the big salaries paid to movie and sports stars.
While apolitical, she voted for Barack Obama because she thinks he deserves another chance.
She doesnt smoke, doesnt drink, hears and sees well and never married.
Some people say thats why Ive lived so long, she said of her single status.
I realize that I have been truly blessed with a full and happy life, she concluded. I am very grateful.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org