Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - February 14, 2014

Our Valentine

Pleasanton resident celebrates 100th birthday today, Feb. 14

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Evie Grace Moller enjoys her birthday being Feb. 14, Valentine's Day.

"It was a blessing," she said in a recent interview in her home. "Everyone said, 'The 14th of February, that's Evie's birthday.' Everyone that knew me remembered."

This year it's even more special because she turns 100. Evie planned to celebrate for a few hours today and a few hours tomorrow to accommodate the schedules of her friends and family members. Plus, at 100, she gets tired after just a few hours of partying.

"My mother used to give me nice birthday parties," she recalled. "We had candy hearts with little sayings."

Evie was born in Berkeley and graduated from Berkeley High.

"It was a cute college town in those days," she said.

Her first memory is dancing at Edison Elementary with a wreath of poppies on her head. Evie burst into song at the recollection: "I love you, California, you're the greatest state of all. I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall."

She graduated from Berkeley High in 1931.

"It was the deep Depression and I couldn't find a job," she said. "My father was a janitor at the lamp company. I remember the day he came home and said he had lost his job."

"He was 16 years older than my mother," she added. "My mother was the boss; she took care of him and my sister, Helen, and I."

She only had one grandparent, who lived in Colorado.

"Now I think of grandparents and how important they are," Evie said. She has three grandchildren, Mark, Wendy, Michael, and four great-grandchildren.

She lived in San Francisco for a year after high school, then married.

"I had a double wedding with my sister, who was five years older. My mother probably thought she could get rid of two of us," Evie said.

She and her husband moved to Walnut Creek, where they lived in Lakewood Estates.

"We built a house that cost $5,000, on a quarter-acre," she recalled.

They had two children -- a girl, Jan, and a boy, Jack -- two years apart, and she would walk them to play in the lake. Although she liked her new home, the marriage didn't work out.

After a while, through mutual friends Evie met Lloyd Moller, one of three ranching brothers from an old Pleasanton family. The Moller Ranch luxury home development is on their former property on Foothill Road.

"He took me to meet his mother (they called her Birdie) and Pop Moller at a bar in Dublin," Evie recalled. "I was amazed to see them sitting at a bar."

She soon found out that the Moller family worked hard and played hard.

"When I was 40 I married Lloyd and came to Pleasanton as his wife," she said. "He took on me and two teenagers! They went to Amador."

The three moved into Lloyd's house on Walnut Drive, off Ray Street near downtown.

"He paid $16,000," Evie said. "He bought it in 1954, and in1955 we got married. When we moved in, it was all furnished."

Evie fit right in to Pleasanton social life.

"The block used to have lots of families that liked to party," said her neighbor Joanie Fields, another Pleasanton native. "They always knew that after the Fair parade, the Mollers would have a party."

Walnut Drive was famous in town for transforming into Candy Cane Lane during the holidays with lights and plywood cutouts, long before elaborate home displays became ubiquitous at Christmastime.

"When I moved here in 1955, Candy Cane Lane was going and you participated or else," Evie recalled. "We had a big Santa Claus."

Although her husband stayed busy on the family's three ranches, Evie only rode a horse once -- and that was enough.

"I wasn't a cowgirl. I was scared to death of horses," she said.

But she fondly remembered the big roundups and the cooking and eating that went on.

"They drove the cattle down Main Street," she said.

She liked luxury automobiles although Lloyd had an old Dodge when she met him.

"I said he had to get rid of that car," she said with a laugh. "I ended up with a Cadillac but we also had a Chrysler and a Plymouth. They weren't car-conscious but I was. I've had three Cadillacs."

Eventually she began to travel, mostly with girlfriends because Lloyd was busy on the ranches.

"I've been flying with a bunch of gals. I traveled a lot," Evie said. "My husband didn't like to leave the ranch. I said, 'I'm going off with the girls.' He was good about it.

"He took a couple of cruises with me but I think he felt guilty about his brothers doing the work."

Lloyd died at age 89. "He had open heart surgery and lived another five years," Evie said.

Her children died when they were in their 60s. "They were born two years apart, and they died two years apart," Evie noted.

She began to lose her eyesight, due to macular degeneration, at age 70.

"Around 70, I was still driving and busy. On my 90th birthday, I couldn't see," she said. "The last I saw was light and dark. The good part is it did it gradually. You adjust, I guess.

"I'm always saying, 'Is the sun shining?'"

Evie played tennis for years with her girlfriend Johnny in Walnut Creek.

"Johnny was going to celebrate her 100th on Nov. 19 then she died in October," Evie said. "Her name was Pansy Johnson, but she hated the name Pansy so went by Johnny. I taught her to play tennis, then she beat me. I played as long as I could see."

A year ago Evie began to depend on a wheelchair.

"In December 2012 I got off my exercise bicycle and fell and broke my ankle," she said. "Now I don't walk. It took a good six months to heal. My problem is I have knees that are not too dependable. When I'm say, 'I'm going,' I'm already gone. That has slowed me down quite a bit."

She follows sports, especially the 49ers, and watches game shows, including "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune."

"I don't listen to too much news, it's too depressing," she said.

When a friend comes over to watch a game together, they will listen to the radio commentators because they provide more details.

"I get just enough visitors," Evie said. "Mavis (Fiorio Williams) just planted over 100 tulip bulbs."

Mavis is from an old Pleasanton family. Her brother Jack owned a grocery and meat shop on Rose Avenue, and she recalls him purchasing from the Mollers' slaughterhouse on Foothill Road.

"My daughter-in-law thought we should do something special for 100," Mavis said. "My friends laughed because I pay somebody to work in my yard then I go over and work in Evelyn's, but she knows the flowers."

"My daughter-in-law got carried away and we planted 200 bulbs," she added. "The daffodils are blooming now, and the tulips are coming up."

Mavis met Evie when the newcomer began playing bridge, and Evie still enjoys her at the monthly games, which alternate among the homes of the members, who are in their 80s and 90s.

"I said, 'I don't think I'll like bridge,' but I love it," Evie said. "I played lots of card games."

"She still comes to bridge, as a social person," Mavis said, "and we always ask her, 'What's the score? What did they bid?'"

"They say I know more about what's going on than they do," Evie said.

Her friend Dottie Laird brings her audio books from the library.

"I do enjoy books -- John Grisham, Danielle Steele, biographies."

Evie's caregiver, Dee, wheels her to a beauty parlor on Main Street to get her hair done every week, and for a manicure every few weeks. "I love to be out," Evie said.

Dee says that Evie clips coupons and keeps track of the household finances. "She knows how much she has. She knows how much is coming in, and how much is going out," Dee said.

Evie's one luxury is cashmere sweaters, which she has in many colors. "I don't put them on," she said. "I live in sweats."

She sleeps with the radio on, listening to weather, the traffic and sports. "At my age," she said, "I can do what I want when I want."

Evie said she has no idea how she has lived so long. "I ate and I drank and I partied," she said, adding, "Now I eat well."

She smoked lightly but quit when she was 41.

"When I was 17 all the high school girls would fly into the car and light up," she remembered. But eventually she asked herself, "What in heck am I smoking for?"

She said the biggest change she has seen in her 100 years is "all those electronic things."

"I've heard of computers and been told that they do everything," she said.

"It's hard to talk about now and then," Evie continued. "The passing of the years is unbelievable." If someone had told her she would live to be 100, she said she would have told them, "You've gotta be out of your mind."

"It's been enjoyable," she added. "I'm enjoying every minute."

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