Our friend Gertrude at the Casa is gone, after 107 years. We’ll miss doing our pet therapy visits with her. But after leaving her empty room and wiping away the tears, in the very next room, we found a new Gertrude to visit. Somehow, it made Darwin and me feel better.
This article was written about Getrude last year.
I reckon Gertrude Drais has lived through at least 20 presidential elections, and worn shirt waist dresses to chemises, bell bottoms to saggies. She shared her native Chicago with Al Capone and his pals, speakeasies, Prohibition – and its repeal. World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Viet Nam War, Desert Storm, and the current wars have kept her glued to the radio, then TV.
Mrs. Drais had seen a lot of history by the time of her May 14th – 107th –birthday blowout at the Casa de las Campanas.
One of Casa’s first residents, Gertrude and her childhood girlfriend signed up for apartments in 1984, moving in upon completion in 1988.
Gertrude still loves to travel, but now she restricts it to circumnavigating the wing where she lives, surrounded by her many souvenirs. For decades, she traveled all over the world. She can show her Trip Diary to prove it. It began in 1953 with a trip by train to Montana. Other times it was by car, or airplane. In meticulous penmanship, she journaled where she went and how, with whom, how much it cost, and highlights of the adventure. A favorite was to China.
Her parents immigrated to the US from Sweden in the late 1800’s. Gertrude and her brother were born in the windy city. She can recite some of the bible verses she learned in the Swedish Evangelical Church. Her philosophies are simple, “Remember what you’ve learned.” And, “We all worship the same God, whatever we call Him.”
Gertrude married in 1927, giving up her job as a secretary for the Nickel plate Railroad. Tragically, her only child died in early infancy. Gertrude and her husband traveled, and took up golf and bridge, the latter of which she still plays. Widowed in 1963, Gertrude followed close friends to northern California in 1967, when she remarried. The newlyweds traveled extensively until her second husband died while on a trip to Hawaii, just two years later.
Gertrude continued to travel alone and with small groups, including a trip to her family homeland – Sweden, in 1972. She met all her cousins who were surprised to hear her fluent Swedish. When a childhood friend moved to Seven Oaks in Rancho Bernardo, she decided to follow. So did about a dozen other of their school chums. When her girlfriend told her about Casa de las Campanas being built, the two went over and picked out their homes from the plans. “Life is good at Casa,” Gertrude says.