At 106, Laura says ‘stay ornery’

THE DALLES —   Laura Ashbrenner, a fashion illustrator and Oregon artist, turns 106 on October 3, 2020. 

Submitted Photo

What’s her secret to a good long life? “Stay ornery,” she says with a sly smile.  

Laura was born in Battleground, Washington in 1914. After high school, she attended Oregon School of Fine Arts and built a career as an artist for advertising agencies. In the 1930s and 40s she worked as a fashion illustrator for top Portland retailers, including Meier & Frank department store. Her work frequently appeared in the Oregonian and The Oregon Journal newspapersHer ink drawings are representative of the period and feature elegant, long-limbed women in tailored suits, flowing dresses and glamorous evening gowns. 

Submitted Photo

In the 1930s, Laura met her future husband, Edgar, at a barn dance while both were on dates with other people. It was during the Great Depression, and Edgar had to find a job before he could support a family. When the couple married in 1937, Laura moved away from her big-city career to tiny Wishram, Washington, where Edgar worked for the railroad as a machinist. They had three children (Vernon, Janet, and Marcene) and raised their family in The Dalles. They were married just shy of 76 years, until Edgar’s death in 2013 at age 105. 

Sweet-natured and quiet, Laura is an avid reader who enjoys playing bingo and taking part in art & craft activities at Columbia Basin Care, a long-term care facility in The Dalles, Oregon, where she has lived for many years.  

What’s the secret to happiness? “Well,” she says, “you just have to enjoy every day as it comes.”  

Columbia Basin Care, located in The Dalles, is the region’s only independent non-profit, facility offering long-term care and short-term rehabilitation. Columbia Basin Care is located at 1015 Webber St., The Dalles, Oregon, 541-296-2156,