105 and counting


Dr. Frank Shearer, who turned 105-years-old this past Sunday, blows out his birthday cake candles as his great-grandson, Timothy Foster, and his daughter, Marilene Foster, hold the cake close to him.

As far as days go, this one had to be pretty good. Sure, he wasn't skimming along a lake on a set of water skis, or galloping on one of his favorite polo horses. It was none of those.

Instead, Frank Shearer was surrounded by 24 family members and friends yesterday, Sunday, as the retired physician celebrated his 105th birthday at Sun Terrace Assisted Living and Retirement Community in Sunnyside.

Shearer looks frail, as most 105-year-old people do, but that state can be misleading, for he's also as strong as someone half of his age.

Shearer's daughter, Marilene Foster, said the night before the big celebration she and her father were touring the facilities at Sun Terrace. Foster suggested she push Shearer in a wheelchair so he didn't get tired. Shearer has one answer for that, which was no.

"He told me he better push me around," Foster said. "He pushed me around all night."

When it came time for him to blow out his candles on Sunday, those gathered for his birthday got another surprise.

Probably due to fire safety, only five candles were put on Shearer's cake instead of the required 105. When Shearer was asked to blow out the candles he hesitated.

Maybe he was thinking of a good wish. Maybe he was thinking of the previous 104 birthday parties and cakes. Whatever it was, Shearer took his time.

When someone suggested his grandson help him out, Shearer took a breath and with a quick release of air, extinguished all five of the candles. His wind was so strong there was no doubt he would have extinguished all 105 candles on the cake if there would have been that many.

"He was always very active," said Shearer's granddaughter, Karin Foster.

She said Shearer played polo in Toppenish from the 1930s to the 1970s. He first started water skiing in the 1930s and just recently stopped. His last run was at the age of 102.

In fact, National Geographic magazine did a story on Shearer when he turned 100-years-old and water skied. He is reportedly the oldest man in the world to ever water ski.

Shearer moved to Toppenish from Canada in the 1930s and began a medical practice there. When WWII broke out Shearer joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served as a medical doctor. He never left the United States.

Upon his discharge, Shearer moved back to Toppenish and resumed his practice. Shearer and his wife had three children, who blessed them with 10 grandchildren, who have in turn blessed them with 17 great grandchildren.

Bernice Shearer passed away in 1996 and Shearer remarried in 2000, at the age of 95.

Why marry so late in life?

"He fell in love," his daughter said.

A relative had told Shearer he needed to meet Helen Brown because she was lonely. Little did the retired doctor know, but he already knew Helen, only she was called Helen Jackson 50 years ago. The two of them had on occasion worked together at the Sunnyside hospital.

The two struck up a friendship, which led to their marriage. They have now been married for 10 years.

Shearer was a pilot, an avid hunter, a great polo player and one heck of a water skier.

Asked by his granddaughter which sport he liked the best, polo or water skiing, he couldn't really decide.

"That's a good question," he said.

Asked how it felt to be 105-years-old, Shearer took a moment to ponder the question.

"So so," he answered.


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