When Mary Helen Whitlock was a student at the University of Washington, Woodrow Wilson was president. World War I was about to start. The Wright Brothers had been flying for only 15 years. A silk dress at The Bon Marché cost $15.

Whitlock, who on July 8 celebrated her 100th birthday with a party at her home in Seal Beach, Calif., has been touched personally by two world wars, the Great Depression and things most of us just read about.

The daughter of an inventor (her dad developed the folding umbrella, among other things), Whitlock was born July 8, 1896 in Santa Cruz, Calif. An only child, she spent most of her life in Los Angeles but came to the UW because one of her close friends at Los Angeles High School was a Seattle girl and wanted her to attend the UW with her.

Whitlock had a great time at the UW, belonging to the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and serving as a member of the women's crew.

But her memories aren't all pleasant--many of her friends were among the 1,104 UW students and 25 faculty members who went off to serve in World War I. "A lot of my friends didn't come back," she recalls. "It was very sad, and school wasn't much fun without them."

Whitlock, who earned a bachelor's degree in general studies, hasn't been back to the campus since she graduated. She recalls the UW then being "green, beautiful and small. We used to meet our friends under the Denny Hall clock between classes."

After graduating, Whitlock started a career as a social worker. She took an around-the-world trip and spent 1929 and 1930 in China before returning as the U.S. struggled to make it out of the Great Depression. She served as a social worker for the Army in World War II, interviewing soldiers who came back to the U.S. after fighting in Europe and the Pacific.

After retiring, she traveled the world and the U.S. In 1966, she moved to Leisure World in Seal Beach at the age of 70. Today, at the age of 100, she lives by herself. Her voice is strong and true at the other end of a long distance telephone call. Until being housebound a few years ago, she religiously attended football games when UW would come to play UCLA or USC. Now, the never-married, only child keeps busy writing letters, watching television and playing the stock market.

A number of cousins hosted a big 100th birthday bash for her, and her house looked like a flower shop with all the gifts. "I held up pretty good for 100," she says. "I love each day as it comes. I don't think of the future. I don't dare."--Jon Marmor

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