At 103, Laura knows the secret to a long life

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HAPPY DAY: Laura celebrated her birthday with a party of friends and staff, including Aubree Olmstead, Columbia Basin Care’s executive director.

What’s the secret to a long life? Depends when you ask.

At 103, Laura Ashbrenner says it’s all about the love of friends and family. “I have good children, and good friends and family.”

Last year, at 102, she attributed her long life to beets. “My mother always made me eat vegetables,” she said, “lots of beets.”

Ashbrenner, an accomplished fashion illustrator and artist who has dedicated much of her life to capturing the beauty of the Columbia Gorge, turned 103 on October 3, 2017.

She 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 newspapers.

 Edgar (Ed) and Laura, along with their three children (Vern, Janet, and Marcie) moved to The Dalles in 1957. Stunned by the unique landscape, Laura turned her focus to capturing its beauty. Many of her landscape paintings are on display at Columbia Basin Care, and her artwork is often seen for sale at online auction and collector sites such as ebay.

She and Ed would often take drives through the country, where Laura would gather inspiration. “I loved all the old barns,” she says. “Some days, Ed would go fishing and I’d paint.”

Laura and Ed were married 75 years. Ed passed away in 2013 at the age of 106.

Known for her sweet nature and quiet talent, Laura is an inspiration to many. Even now, she’s still painting. Just days before her birthday, she has a sketch pad in hand at Columbia Basin Care, a long-term care facility in The Dalles, Oregon.

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