ARLINGTON — Not many people get well-wishes for their birthday from President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, on behalf of the rest of Congress, but then again, not many people live to be 100 years old.
Florence Pryor not only turns 100 on Sept. 10, but she’s also celebrating her standing as the longest-serving member of the Arlington American Legion Post 76 Auxiliary, having first joined in 1946.
When Florence’s brother, Ben Olsen Jr., returned from his two years in the Navy experiencing difficulty with his legs, she made up her mind to help as many disabled veterans as she could.
Ben recovered, but Florence’s work continues to this day, through the auxiliary, and her example has inspired not only both of her sons, but also a number of nephews and other relatives to serve in the military.
“I prayed they would all come back home, safe and sound, and they did,” said Florence, whose older son Roger served in the Air Force for 21 years, while her younger son Harry served in the Army during the Vietnam war.
Florence has racked up quite a few achievements of her own in the meantime. She’s served as the Arlington Legion’s Poppy Chairwoman since 1946, and has been active for years in charitable nonprofit volunteer groups such as the Old Bags of Arlington. While downtown Arlington’s bowling alley has since been renamed Rocket Alley, Florence was the one who came up with its original name of “Melady Lanes.”
And she’s done it all without ever driving a car.
Florence’s family moved to the area from Seattle when she was 6. Her father was a logger who built the family’s home, and Florence herself put off getting married until she was 20, so she could stay with her parents and help them through the Depression.
Although she moved to Port Orchard after marrying Maury Pryor, Florence ultimately couldn’t stay away from what she felt was her hometown.
“I’ve done a lot of things in this town,” said Florence, who’s not only collected thousands of dollars for the Legion through poppy sales over the years, but has also made thousands of quilts by hand. “I guess that’s why my wrists are so sore.”
As much as she looks back wistfully on the adventures of her youth, at her dad’s logging camp, as “beautiful days,” Florence loves being in Arlington now, with an entire town that’s become an extended family of sorts.
“I know everyone here,” Florence says. “Everyone on the street stops to say hi to me.”
The community is invited to help Florence Pryor ring in her 100th birthday at 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Legion Lounge, at 115 N. Olympic Ave. Call 360-435-2492 for details.