‘The man in the beaver coat:’ 100th-birthday celebration lasts 4 days

Allison Arthur aarthur@ptleader.com
Posted 3/14/17

Richard Konizeski had four parties last week to celebrate his 100th birthday on March 10, including one at Don’s Soda Fountain, where he frequently goes to visit with friends.

One of those …

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‘The man in the beaver coat:’ 100th-birthday celebration lasts 4 days

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Richard Konizeski had four parties last week to celebrate his 100th birthday on March 10, including one at Don’s Soda Fountain, where he frequently goes to visit with friends.

One of those friends, Barbara Blowers, met him three years ago when he was waiting for a taxicab to take him home to Cape George. He’d been waiting for more than an hour. Blowers offered him a ride since his home was on her way home at Beckett Point.

And, since then, she’s been bringing Konizeski to town four, five, maybe six times a week.

“So we go out to lunch. We go to Don’s, The Belmont. Sometimes we go to Chinese and sometimes Point Hudson Cafe,” said Blowers, 71, who does not expect to retire anytime soon as broker of Waves Waterfront Properties, which has an office around the corner from Don’s.

“We’re very good friends and we do a lot of laughing,” she said of Konizeski.

THE BEAVER COAT

Most people who see Konizeski might not know him – he’s more of a reader than a talker – but Blowers said a lot of people probably recognize “the man in the beaver coat.”

Konizeski has been wearing that beaver coat every cold winter for more than half of his life, Blowers learned. He bought it in Missoula, Montana, where he was a professor of water resources at the University of Montana.

“He bought it in a store in Missoula in the 1950s. It’s beaver,” said Blowers, helping in an conversation by phone because Konizeski is hard of hearing.

“This year, he was glad he had it in Port Townsend,” said Blowers of the warm coat and the cold winter.

“Not very many people in Port Townsend know him, but a lot of people recognize the coat,” said Blowers.

After she brings him to town, Blowers said, Konizeski walks around downtown, browses the bookstores, and waits for her until she’s ready to go home. Otherwise, the trip in a taxi between his home and Port Townsend might cost him as much as $22 one way, she said.

Konizeski likes to read – newspapers in particular and The New York Times specifically – so he tends to gravitate to wherever there are newspapers, she said.

THE PARTIES

At Don’s, his friends made him a cake and sang to him. He also received a birthday card signed by 100 people.

A group of his students from Montana showed up and had a party for him as well, at the Bee Hive Restaurant in Montesano. Some of them were in their 80s, Blowers said. A friend who used to teach with him came from North Carolina to honor him.

His daughters, Susan and Shirley, also threw him a soiree. And then there was another party as well, Blowers said.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Born in Eastern Washington, Konizeski attended grade school in Long Beach, Washington. He then moved to Everett, where he graduated from high school, Blowers said.

He did odd jobs until World War II, when he got a job at a foundry and then saved up enough money to go to Washington State University, from which he graduated in 1955. He went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and then taught at the University of Montana until 1979, she said.

Konizeski and his wife, Ruby, bought a sailboat and traveled all over the West Coast, Blowers said, before they settled in Cape George.

As for how he’s gotten to be 100 years old, Blowers answered that easily. “Genetics,” she said. “His dad died at 95.”

Asked to ask Konizeski what the secret to old age is, she said that he said, “I had a wonderful life.”

Then she shared that, in addition to enjoying reading, Konizeski never smoked or drank and he loves to walk. He just needs a ride from his home to get to Port Townsend to do that.

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