A well-known Williams woman is Colusa County’s newest centenarian.
Marie Spooner turned 100 years old on Sunday, and got the surprise of her life.
Dozens of friends, family, and well wishers from her church and card group drove their cars through Spooner’s circular driveway at the Spooner Ranch to wish her happy birthday – and to drop off cards, flowers, and gifts.
“I don’t know whether to cry or get up and dance,” said Spooner, who sat at the edge of her driveway on a warm breezy day, sipping a spicy Bloody Mary with a few members of her family and friends.
The drive-by birthday was organized by Williams resident Jean Terkildsen, a longtime friend, in keeping with the COVID-19 recommendations to avoid large gatherings.
“We would have loved to have a big party for Marie’s 100th birthday, but under the circumstances, this was one way we can find a way for people to say happy birthday,” Terkildsen said. “She has so many friends.”
While Spooner, at 100, has outlived most of her childhood friends, most of her siblings, and two wonderful husbands, she said her life has been blessed with good health, many relatives and friends, and two wonderful families.
“I knew this birthday was coming, but it’s hard to believe because I don’t feel old,” said a lively Spooner, who walked out to greet many of her friends and pose for photos.
Spooner was born in Willows on Jan. 17, 1921. Her parents, Barney and Polly Alves, operated a dairy farm on the east side of the Sacramento River in Glenn County, near Butte City.
Spooner attended Glenn County High School, and grew up in the tight-knit Portuguese Catholic community of the Central Valley.
In 1938, when she was named Queen of the Princeton Portuguese Festa at the age of 17, Spooner’s life blossomed.
“In those days, there were not a lot of things for people to do,” she said. “We didn’t have all the things that young people have today. In those days, the Festas were a very big deal. We went to Princeton, Orland, Chico, Gridley and Biggs.”
Spooner said when her father came home from a Festa meeting and told her mother that she was to be queen, she leaped from the bed and jumped around.
“It was a pretty big deal, and, of course, I thought I was the cat’s meow,” she said.
A few years later, she married John Azevedo, of Maxwell, where the couple operated a dairy, had an apple orchard, and raised bees, rice, and kiwi, while raising three children Ron, Vicki and Sara.
When her husband died, she continued to run the ranch for 10 years. Always active in the community, it wasn’t long for Spooner to become famous for her apple pies, which become one of the most coveted and “expensive” items at fundraising raffles, selling anywhere from $250 to $5,000. She has also been an active member and volunteer at Sacred Heart Parish for more than 80 years.
“I like to do things for other people,” she said. “I always have. Everyone knows how hard I worked, especially with the apples.”
She was also well known in Williams, having worked at Fouch’s Drug for two decades.
To most people who drove by to wish Spooner happy birthday, Spooner is the queen of good will and kindness.
“When I was asked what is the first thing I think of when I think about (Marie), I say she is one gracious lady,” said Roseann Manhart (Sorenson), on Sunday. “She is always so giving and caring.”
Although well known in Williams, Spooner didn’t become a resident of that city until 1997, when she married her second husband Chester Spooner, and acquired an even larger family.
“Chet was a wonderful man,” she said. “He had a great sense of humor.”
In addition to being an active member of her church and community, Spooner enjoys playing cards with her friends. She is also an avid gardener, and for decades was a top winner at the Colusa County Fair with her canned and baked goods.
Her great great grandson, Andrew Puliout, of San Jose, said one of his favorite childhood memories was how protective his grandmother was of her garden.
“When I was 14, I was staying the summer here,” Puliout said. “The swimming pool overflowed and flooded the garden. She came in and said ‘the garden is flooded; the garden is flooded.’ So I ran out barefoot into the mud and we had to dig ditches all the way to the field so all the water would drain out. That took all day, but it was a fun day.”
Following Sunday’s birthday parade, which included many members of the Spooner, Alves, and Azevedo families from Colusa and Glenn counties, Spooner celebrated what remained of her 100th birthday in Maxwell, at the home of her son.
Spooner said she is now looking forward to her 101st birthday, and hopes to celebrate it with a big party, where people can get up and dance. ♣