Arlington's Julia Lien turns 100

Julia Lien, who turns 100 years old on March 11, holds her great-great-granddaughter, Alexa Barker. - Kirk Boxleitner
Julia Lien, who turns 100 years old on March 11, holds her great-great-granddaughter, Alexa Barker.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Julia Lien has lived long enough to hold her great-great-granddaughter in her arms, and she shows no signs of slowing down.

Lien was born on March 11, 1911, and on March 12, Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Arlington will serve as the site for her 100th birthday party, from 1-5 p.m.

Although she's lived in Arlington longer than most of the people who were born in the town, she was already 21 years old before she moved to Washington state from her birth state of North Dakota.

"I'd married Howard Brisbin at 19," Julia said of her first husband. "By 1932, we had two girls and no jobs, so his parents sent us some money so that we could take the train and live with them."

After brief stays in Auburn and Snohomish, Julia and Howard settled down in Arlington, a community which was well-suited to his trade as a logger. They had four more children together, and over time, Julia became accustomed to moving from one local logging camp to another on a regular basis.

"I got used to roughing it," Julia laughed. "There weren't that many stores in Arlington itself. I think Smokey Point had one tavern and one filling station and that was it. There wasn't hardly anything here back then."

Julia found herself enduring even greater hardships a few years later, when Howard left her and she wound up becoming a single mom to six kids.

"I worked at the Steakhouse and the Bonton, where Brooster's is now," Lien said. "My oldest daughter helped take care of the younger kids."

Julia soon discovered that she'd earned herself a fan in Alfred Lien, one of her customers.

"He was this handsome young guy who had a habit of coming in for a cup of coffee," Julia said, before laughing, "One time, he finally asked if he could walk me home. A year later, we were married."

Julia and Alfred's son, Andrew, now lives in the house that was once his parents' home, just off Kackman Road.

Alfred was born and raised in Arlington before he joined the Army, and after he came back home, he worked 27 years as a rural postal carrier.

"He gave me a whole new life," Julia said. "He passed away in 1999 on April 12, the day after his birthday. I was a month older than him."

A series of strokes sent Alfred to live at the Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood for the last four years of his life, after Julia suffered a heart attack from the strain of caring for him herself.

"It was a hard thing," Julia said. "He was dearly loved and is still missed by all of his family to this day."

While Julia still keeps Alfred in her heart, she continues to stay active in her hometown, with more than six decades of volunteer work at Our Savior's Lutheran Church and a lifetime membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She taught Sunday school until all of her own kids were grown, and she takes pride in having instilled a strong work ethic in them.

"I've always worked hard all my life," Julia Lien said. "I've gotten by with God's help. He always helps when you're down or discouraged."

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