Washington woman with storied life celebrates 100th birthday

WASHINGTON CITY  From working on the first Barbie dolls to teaching art, Gabriell von Kahrs has led a storied life, and on Saturday, the red carpet was rolled out in spectacular fashion as von Kahrs’ friends and family showed up in force to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Gabriell von Kahrs celebrates her 100th birthday at Spring Gardens Senior Living, Washington, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News
Gabriell von Kahrs celebrates her 100th birthday at Spring Gardens Senior Living, Washington, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Spring Gardens Senior Living hosted the day-long party for von Kahrs, featuring a 20-piece jazz band in the morning and a surprise red-carpet debut to a crowd of friends and family in the evening.

Von Kahrs was speechless and overwhelmed with emotion when she entered the facility’s grand ballroom, attempting — unsuccessfully — to hold back tears as guests cheered for her in standing ovation.

When asked the secret to her longevity, von Kahrs’ response was simple.

Just keep breathing!” she said. “That’s the only way I got here; just keep breathing.”

“Today I am still in total shock as you are speaking with me. I have never been so surprised in my life,” she said. “Today has been the most wondrous day that I’ve had in my life.”

Von Kahrs had a rough upbringing, losing both her parents when she was very young. She was able to overcome that initial adversity and go on to live a full life with multiple careers.

A childhood picture of gabriell von Kahrs whoe celebrated her 100th birthday at Spring Gardens Senior Living, Washington, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News
A childhood picture of Gabriell von Kahrs, who celebrated her 100th birthday at Spring Gardens Senior Living, Washington, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Von Kahrs worked in fashion, starting out at a swimsuit company. She also worked with models and traveled with them to fashion shows.

“She was such a fashion-conscious person,” Deborah Packard, von Kahrs’ younger cousin, said. “When we were children she’d come over, and if I hadn’t taken care of my fingernails properly she would let me know.”

Packard affectionately refers to von Kahrs as her “aunt.”

“She worked on the first prototypes of the Barbie doll,” Packard said. “She gave one to my sister and I, and she had painted the eyes on and every so often the eyes would fade out because it was just hand painted for the prototype and we’d take it back to Aunt Gabby to repaint the eyes.”

“I teach art, I paint. I love to paint and draw,” von Kahrs said when asked how she stays active.

Gabriell von Kahrs shows off her drawing skills as she celebrates her 100th birthday at Spring Gardens Senior Living, Washington, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News
Gabriell von Kahrs shows off her drawing skills as she celebrates her 100th birthday at Spring Gardens Senior Living, Washington, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Von Kahrs still has some of her own paintings dating back to 1935, totaling over 500 works of art. At her party Saturday, it was announced that some of these works would be getting a new home.

Previously, Von Kahrs had noticed that all the paintings at Spring Garden were prints. When she heard Spring Garden’s owner was planning to open another facility, she thought it might be nice to have actual paintings hung there and offered her work for that purpose.

She proudly proclaimed Saturday that her offer was accepted, and the paintings were being moved to be framed that day.

“I felt my babies had a new place,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“As they took them from the room, I felt my whole life just pass me.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • .... October 3, 2016 at 4:44 am

    This was such a loving and caring thing to do for her. this is a fine example of the wonderful loving people we have in our community. we are so blessed to have people like this in our community. God Bless each any every one of them

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