When Marian Tuttle-Crum’s family comes to visit their mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother this Mother’s Day weekend, they will celebrate a milestone few people live to see — Marian’s 100th birthday.
“For Marian’s entire life, she has loved children,” Marian’s daughter-in-law, Donna Pearson, told the Post-Record this week, a few days before Marian’s birthday on May 10.
Marian used to tell her family she should write a book called, “Call Me Nana,” Donna said.
“She cared for my children and my granddaughters along with numerous neighbor children and children of family friends,” Donna said. “She always said (children) kept her young, and I’m sure that is the secret to her long life.”
On May 3, one week before Marian’s birthday, her granddaughter, Karen Reisenauer, great-granddaughter, Miranda Reisenauer, and two great-great-granddaughters, 6-year-old Savannah and 4-year-old Nicole, all of Camas, gathered around their family matriarch at the Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Center, where Marian has lived since 2016.
“She was always about the kids,” Karen, 53, said of her grandmother. “I was a young mother, and she was right there, taking care of my daughter, Miranda, when she was only 3 months old. We saw each other every day.”
Miranda, 27, said she learned to “never leave family behind,” from her great-grandmother.
“Nana never judged her grandkids. She was always there for us,” Miranda said. “And she was adamant that family came first.”
Marian’s life began on May 10, 1919, in Los Angeles. The eldest of four children, Marian knew who she was from a very young age.
“Her parents named her Evelyn Marian White, but she never liked the name Evelyn,” Donna said. “At an early age, she started calling herself Marian and, to my knowledge, was never called Evelyn again.”
At one week shy of 100 years old, Marian still remembers the close bond she had with her younger sister, Barbara.
“We all called her Barbie,” Marian said. “She was the athlete. I was the artist.”
As a young mother raising three sons in the Los Angeles area, Marian used her artistic talents to her benefit, opening her own home-based business designing and painting baby announcements and cards that she sold in stores nationwide.
“I had employees, mostly men, and they couldn’t draw an original picture,” Marian recalled. “I would do it and they would copy mine.”
Marian married four times in her life, but her family said “the love of her life” was her first husband, Jack Tuttle, whom she met thanks to her mother.
“Her mother had been shopping (at a Los Angeles grocery store) and met the the new clerk in the produce department,” Donna recalled. “She went home and told Marian about him and the rest was history.”
Marian and Jack married on Aug. 8, 1936, and raised three boys in California, where Jack worked as an engineer at Lockheed. Marian’s life changed dramatically when Jack died at 49 from a sudden heart attack.
“Jack was the love of her life. She used to keep his driver’s license in her bra to keep him close to her heart,” Karen said of her grandmother. “She did this recently.”
Marian would go on to marry three more times. Her second husband’s last name was Pye and her last husband’s surname was Crum.
“I like to say I went from a pie to a crumb,” Marian said, laughing.
From Marian and Jack’s three sons came seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and two great-greatchildren. Marian’s life was filled with family, friends and volunteer work — she volunteered at her great-grandchildren’s schools into her late 80s and once received a “volunteer of the year” award for her work in her great-granddaughter, Miranda’s, classroom in Spokane, Washington.
“She learned to square dance, loved to attend theater and was very active in her church,” Donna said.
As for Marian, she believes the secret to her long life may have something to do with her faith — “Go to church,” Marian said when asked what advice she might give a young person hoping to see their 100th birthday — and the fact that she regularly shunned pharmaceuticals for vitamins and exercise.
“She was very active all of her life,” Karen said of her grandmother, Marian. “She loved to dance and she still does exercises in her (wheelchair). That’s probably the secret to her long life … that and she’s very feisty and stubborn.”