At the age of 99, Nordland's Patricia “Pat” Burns still hits the links with her girlfriends twice a week, when she's not swimming in the Sound or inviting those same friends over for a round of pickleball on a court she had installed on her property.
“I had good parents, who gave me good stuff,” said Burns, who was born June 3, 1919, when she was asked to account for her longevity. “I've never abused my body, I take my supplements, and I live in a nice, quiet community with friendly people.”
MORE THAN A CENTURY OF HISTORY
Pat's history with Marrowstone Island stretches back before even her own extended lifetime.
Her grandparents, Tollef and Pauline Solie, arrived on the island in the early 1890s, coming from southwest Norway, after hearing Marrowstone was a lot like their home country in terms of offering a place to hunt, fish and farm. They bought 10 acres right at the end of Mystery Bay.
“Tollef would walk home, carrying scrap lumber from the fort to Mystery Bay, to use for the homes he was building,” said Lynn Pierle, one of Burns' teammates on the Discovery Bay Women's Golf Club.
Tollef and Pauline had several children, one of whom was their daughter Elida, who everyone called “Lee.” The Norwegian Lee went on to meet the Irish Patrick McMenamin, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Flagler.
“When he was courting Lee, Patrick would walk to Mystery Bay from the fort, and the two of them would walk back to the fort and dance the night away, before Patrick would walk Lee back to her home at Mystery Bay,” Pierle said. “Now that is love.”
Patrick and Lee tied the knot at the Solies' old home in 1915, and had two daughters, Margaret and Patricia, the latter of whom became known as “Pat.”
Patrick was then stationed at Fort Casey until Pat was three, then transferred to Hawaii, taking the family from Marrowstone to “a new island, which Pat loved.
The family moved back to Fort Worden after nine years in Hawaii, and Pat went to high school in Port Townsend, where she was crowned as the fourth Queen in the history of the Rhododendron Festival, in 1939, as Patricia McMenamin.
Pierle recalled that, then as now, Pat was “incredibly active,” playing tennis, swimming and dancing, since “she loved and still loves to dance.”
Pat married her high school sweetheart, with whom she had a son, Steve, but the marriage didn't last, and Pat found herself a single mother, moving with her son to Seattle, to work at Windemere Realty. “She wanted to go to the University of Washington to become an architect, but her dad had recently died, and money was tight, so that dream never happened,” Pierle said.
While in Seattle, Patricia McMenamin met Bud Burns.
“Bud wanted to marry Pat, but he told her what he really wanted, more than anything was to be Stevie's dad,” Pierle said. “So, Pat knew, right then and there, that this was the man she wanted to marry.”
Bud was a fireman, who worked on the fireboat next to Ivar's on Pier 54, and the family spent a number of years in Seattle, where they had two more children, Bobbi and Tim.
During this time, Pat was very involved in the Ryther's Children Home for troubled youths, not only starting several units, but also often hosting foster children who stayed with them.
After retirement, Pat and Bud moved back to Marrowstone Island in 1977, to be close to Pat's mother, Lee, and building the home where Pat lives today.
Along with their neighbors, the Taylors, the Burns were part of the group that was instrumental in getting the ambulance service to the island, and Pat drove the ambulance until the age 72, when Pierle notes, “She was told she was too old to drive anymore, as insurance would no longer cover her.”
Bud and Pat were “Citizens of the Year” for Marrowstone Island in 1994, before Bud died in 1995.
HERE AND NOW
While Bud got her into the game when she was 43 years old, Pat still plays golf at least twice a week in the summer.
“When your husband plays golf, you either play too, or you stay at home,” Pat said. “But I like it. You get to go out into the fresh air, the scenery is nice and it's not too strenuous.”
Pat also stays active by gardening in her yard, going to the movies, swimming in Mystery Bay, and even driving for ECHHO, the Ecumenical Christian Helping Hands Organization.
“I think she hasn't told them her age, and she still has insurance,” Pierle said.
Although she spent a number of years away, Pat has nonetheless lived through some significant swaths of Marrowstone Island history, but part of what the Nordland native loves so much about her old home is how little about it has changed.
“The General Store moved from the waterfront to just across the street,” Pat said. “And there are more new houses now. The island has a bit bigger population, but it's not too big. It's stayed pretty small. That's helped us keep it one big community.”
As both a former Rhody Fest Queen and a Nordland Tractor Queen, Pat noted that her advice to the young women who might follow in her footsteps is just as useful when approaching life itself.
“Be yourself,” Pat said. “Don't be someone you're not. Be friendly and happy with what you have, and don't dwell on the shortcomings.”
During the Discovery Bay Women's Golf Club tourney against Port Townsend, Pat won her match.
Norma Lupkes, whom Burns got into golf about seven years ago, recalled how casual Pat was about taking a dip in the bay, when she called short one summer round of golf to beat the heat.
“She said she was going home to swim, and I said, 'Oh, you have a pool?'” Lupkes said. “She told me she was going to swim in the bay, and I asked her if she had a wetsuit, since those waters can get pretty cold. She said, 'Well, of course, when I get in the water, my swimsuit gets wet.'”
Another of Pat's fellow golfers, Barbara Aldrich, recalled not being able to accompany her husband, Willard, to a Port Townsend High School alumni dinner, so he invited Pat on a date that night instead.
“He's 93, so she said, 'I've always loved younger men,'” Aldrich said. “And he told her, 'I've always loved experienced women.'”
Willard, from the PTHS Class of 1943, picked up Pat, from the Class of 1937, and they agreed they had a great time.
“I got to go on a date with a great guy, and still stay friends with his wife,” Pat said.