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Former Bainbridge Island resident hits century mark
Arthur Alfred Mikkola has seen plenty of changes during his lifetime, especially during the past 100 years.
Mikkola celebrated his 100th birthday on Oct. 29 with a party at the Ridgemont Apartments in Port Orchard.
“Everything has changed,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes. I remember when there wasn’t a lot of cars yet.”
Mikkola, a second-generation Finnish American, was born in 1913, in Melbourne, Fla., to John and Maria Mikkola, who immigrated to New York City in 1910.
Mikkola’s father moved the family to the Seattle area in 1916 because of the logging industry.
“Logging paid better up here than in Florida, so that is why my father came up here,” Mikkola said.
In 1919, after moving around, the family settled on Bainbridge Island.
He said his father bought one of the first cars on Bainbridge; a 1924 Model T.
“There wasn’t any ferries at the time, so we had to bring it over on a barge from Seattle,” Mikkola recalled. “There were no ferries and they didn’t start operating until 1925 or 1926.”
While on Bainbridge Island, he attended schools at Rolling Bay and Lincoln in Winslow. In 1928, Mikkola was a freshman at the original all-island public high school, built the same year.
During the summer months, he worked in a strawberry cannery, along with logging with his father.
Mikkola graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1931. He is one of the school’s oldest living alumni.
Mikkola hurt his right leg in a logging accident in 1934. He had several operations during a two-year period.
“I have only one bone in my lower leg where there should be two,” he said.
“I’ve walked on it ever since.”
In 1938, Mikkola bought a used 1930 Model A Ford coupe for $125 in Seattle. He used part of the $1,500 settlement for his injured leg to buy the car.
In 1941, Mikkola took a train to Detroit, Mich. and bought a 1941 Plymouth and drove it back to Washington.
He met his wife, Vendla, in Seattle. She graduated business college in Minnesota, worked at the Smithsonian for several years before coming to Washington state to work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Mountlake Terrace.
“I met her through a friend in Ballard,” Mikkola said. “I was living in Seattle and I was surprised to learn that she was living two blocks away.”
They were married in 1944.
After living in Seattle for a few years, they moved to Bainbridge Island in 1950 and bought a home at the southwest corner of Sunrise Drive and Bay Road.
He worked as a welder for more than 30 years at Keyport and Bangor before he retired in 1970.
Mikkola has seen a bit of the world in his century on this Earth. Among his travels, he went to Finland in 1976 and met his uncle.
He and his wife — who were married for 64 years — moved to Port Orchard in 1994 to be closer to their daughter, Marilyn Crawford, and family.
Mikkola said he attributes outdoor life as the key to his long life.
“I was a big outdoors guy,” he said. “I loved the outdoors and fishing a lot. You got to get out, get some fresh air and keep active. I never smoked and never drank much in my life. To be a welder, you had to have a steady hand and clear eyes.”
He has a few stories still of his time in the wild.
“I caught a 24-pound salmon one time,” Mikkola said. “It was the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.”
Dannie Oliveaux is the editor of the Port Orchard Independent.