Rose Mebesius celebrates 105

When wished a happy birthday, Rose Mebesius exclaims with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “I never expected to live this long! If I’d known, I would have taken better care of myself!”

Rose Mebesius, soon to be 105
Rose Mebesius, soon to be 105

Rose has lived on the same corner near Columbia Park since 1950 when she moved there as a young married woman. She was born in 1919, and grew up in southwest Portland. Her husband, Norman, was a Roosevelt High School graduate, baseball player, and lifelong North Portlander. “He loved sports,” she noted. Rose was also athletic and played tennis. “I didn’t mind moving out here because his mother was here and his friends from school. I loved this neighborhood.” In 1951 their daughter, Vicki (Congdon), was born and the next year, their son, Bill, was born. 

Rose remembers that St. Johns was considered to be on the distant outskirts of the city and somewhat rural at that time. In fact, before their housing development was built, the site had been a tulip farm. She didn’t spend much time in the St. Johns town center but has fond memories of visiting the Wishing Well restaurant.

Rose witnessed the depression growing up. “It was not a good time,” she recalled. Norman was lucky to have a job every summer as a lifeguard at nearby Columbia Pool. “Jobs were real hard to get at that time, so it was a big deal.”

Her first encounter with St. Johns actually occurred when Rose was just 12 years old. Her two older brothers decided to hand-build a catamaran under their mother’s porch roof. A catamaran is a sailboat with two hulls connected by a bridge deck, usually sailed in calmer waters. Her brothers heard about a boat race on the Columbia River and decided they wanted to join it. 

They invited 12-year-old Rose to join them sailing the catamaran down the Willamette River in order to reach the Columbia to join the race. Young Rose was happy to be included and joyfully joined her brothers as they put in at the Ross Island Bridge and set sail. The day started with good weather. “The river was high and our mast was so tall, that every bridge had to open for us! Then it started to rain. There was nowhere to get away from rain on a catamaran. So we made it as far as the St. Johns Bridge and pulled over to some houseboats.

We were cold, wet and hungry, and some people let us come in and get warm. They gave me a sardine sandwich. It tasted really good because I was so hungry. The next day my brothers entered the boat race—but the catamaran’s mast broke! That catamaran is now displayed in my nephew’s store, Broadway Furniture. Every time I visit, he has me tell the story.”

Happy birthday Rose! 

If you would like to send Rose a birthday greeting, please email

or by snail mail to 

North Peninsula Review, 8316 N. Lombard, #350, Portland OR 97203