By Lani Tunzi
When Doris Thielen of Eagle Rock celebrates her 100th birthday this month, the milestone will be all the more remarkable for the fact that she has lived every one of her 100 years in Eagle Rock.
In a recent interview, Mrs. Thielen described her century – from February 5, 1919 to February 5, 2019 – as one defined by family and neighbors, love, marriage and motherhood, homemaking, civic pride, volunteering and gardening.
She grew up on Yosemite Drive, the daughter of Fred and Anna Krager. Her father, an Austrian immigrant and a member of the town’s symphony orchestra, had settled in the Eagle Rock area in 1903 because the expanses of land framed by hills and mountains reminded him of home.
Feeling at home in Eagle Rock – and making sure others felt at home, too – has been a constant in Doris Thielen’s life. When she was a girl, she and her mother would deliver homemade German coffee cake to people who moved onto their street, a practice she kept up through adulthood.
She attended Eagle Rock Elementary, was in the first seventh grade class to enter Eagle Rock Jr/Sr High School, and graduated in 1937. Some of her fondest memories were made at school, she said, including her senior prom at the Women’s 20th Century Club, which she attended with “the cutest boy in Eagle Rock.”
That boy, however, was not ‘the one.’ Doris Krager was smitten with Bob Thielen, a boy who lived around the corner – so smitten, in fact, that she would climb up on her parent’s garage roof to catch a glimpse of him. She would also bump into him – what a coincidence! – while catching the town cars that used to run along the boulevards.
Their first date was dinner and a game of golf at Brookside Country Club. They married in 1946, after Bob returned from three years in the service, and were married for 64 years, until Bob’s death in 2010.
The entire time, they lived in the same house on Addison Way where Mrs. Thielen still lives. The house was built by Addison Lee, for whom Addison Way was named when the street was still mostly an orange grove.
Before she was married, Mrs. Thielen had started working as a secretary to Tom Knudsen, founder of the Knudsen dairy company – a job that brought here into contact with powerful business and political figures of the day. But she stopped working when she and Bob had children, their firstborn son, Mark, then another son, Paul. Bob Theilen worked for the railroad – “it was his job to make the money and my job to spend it”– said Mrs. Theilen.
The couple remodeled every inch of their home, which became a central meeting place for family and friends. Another passion was gardening. She has been a lifelong dedicated member and volunteer with the Women’s 20th Century Club and Las Vecinas, which means “the neighbors.” Along the way, she helped fundraise and plant countless trees around the streets of Eagle Rock.
You can’t get to be 100 without people asking you for the secret to long life. Doris Thielen was very active. She would walk two miles a day no matter what, she said, and did aerobic exercise regularly so that she could go up and down stairs without a problem. After Bob retired, the two of them traveled far and wide – “eight times around a cruise ship is two miles,” she said.
But her real secret was revealed when I asked her to name her favorite memory from a century in Eagle Rock. She couldn’t decide. “I’ve loved it all,” she said.