Living through historical events, traveling the globe and meeting a host of famous icons are just some of the highlights for one prominent Carson City resident as she rings in her 100th birthday.
Gertrude Gottschalk, born Feb. 4, 1916, said her age is just a number.
“I wish I knew how it felt (to be 100 years old),” Gertrude said jokingly. “It still hasn’t caught up with me yet, but it is quite a milestone. I can’t say I ever expected it, all life I never really thought about age so it just kind of caught up with me.”
Gertrude still has a sharp mind and gung-ho attitude, she keeps herself busy through various organizations in the community. She works with the Philanthropic Education Organization, the Carson City Garden Club and still makes time to play Bridge in Genoa each week. Her son, Mark Gottschalk joked even he has to schedule time to see her because she’s constantly on the go.
Growing up, she was raised in White Pine County, just south of Ely in the White River Valley, on a ranch with her older brother and two parents. They attended a small school house where three students were present — Gertrude, her brother and an Amish child who lived with them so he could attend school.
“It was just a few of us and the teacher usually lived with us,” Gertrude said. “During the winter we could get five- to six-feet of snow and the men would have to shovel a path for us but sometimes, when they couldn’t we would just end up having our lessons at the table.”
She even had a pet deer named Juliet she befriended after her brother took it in from the wild. Juliet was only three days old when someone shot and killed her mother, and Gertrude’s brother took the deer in.
“He came in and asked if anyone wanted her and she was just standing there shaking and then she came and put her little head on my knee and I knew she was mine,” Gertrude said.
Everyday Gertrude took Juliet out, Gertrude would ride her horse and Juliet would run alongside them.
At age 13, Gertrude was sent to boarding school in Belmont, Calif.
Gertrude lived through the Great Depression. She recalled traveling to and from Belmont and seeing men outside the train so desperate for money they were selling pencils on the side of the road.
“It was a pretty brutal time,” Gertrude said. She said she lived with her parents in Ely at that time and they would constantly have people coming to their home asking for food and no matter what, her mother wouldn’t turn anyone away and would always give what she could.
When she was in her 20s, Gertrude moved to Carson City to work for the Highway Department and marry her husband George. There they raised two boys, Mark and Kerry, and started their own business, Carson New Gas. It was around that time, in the 1960s, Gertrude became heavily involved with the Democratic National Party and traveled all over Nevada to organize for the Democratic Party. She even ended up being involved in the Democratic National Convention when John F. Kennedy was president and got the chance to meet him several times.
“John always remembered my name whenever he came to Nevada,” Gertrude said.
She also had the opportunity to meet Robert F. Kennedy and his wife ,Ethel, when they were in Nevada. She had been going to breakfast in the hotel they were staying in and they had invited her to sit and have breakfast with them. Gertrude described the two as “a lovely couple.”
Though with all of her adventures, Gertrude said her favorite one in the last 100 years was a six-week trip she took to Hawaii with a friend.
“It was just a wonderful time, we danced holes in our shoes,” Gertrude said. “It was fabulous.”
The six-week trip was originally only supposed to be two weeks, after a childhood friend had asked her to come visit her in Hawaii, but she ended up staying longer. While she was there, she even received surfing lessons from a member of one of Hawaii’s last noble families.
“There was a beautiful beach that we would swim at and he was down there one day,” Gertrude said. “We got to talking and he said ‘let me show you what a surfboard is like. I was not too excited about it, but he was really good at it!”
On her way back to the states later, Gertrude was on a boat from Hawaii to San Francisco, where she met Amelia Earhart, the famous female aviator. Earhart was traveling back to the states with her plane after a solo ride when Gertrude met her.
“She was in first class and I was in second class, but she would come down and talk to us every day, probably because we were closer to her age than the people in first class,” Gertrude said. “She was an exceptional woman and she would talk to us all about her adventures.”
To celebrate her birthday, her son Mark is throwing a party for Gertrude Sunday at the Nugget from noon to 3 p.m. They are expecting nearly 150 friends and family at the event to celebrate Gertrude’s big day.
“I’ve had a wonderful life, I had two great kids, a great husband and lots of traveling,” Gertrude said.