Wise Elder

Archive for March, 2011

Inspirational Wise Elders – June Kirlin

June Kirlin @ Debut of Her Orchestral Composition


June Kirlin & Jackie 03Aug07

June Kirlin was my Mom’s best friend for many years. I “adopted” June when my Mom’s dementia progressed to the point where she could no longer keep up a friendship. A talented musician and composer, June is known worldwide for her wonderful orchestral compositions.  At age 100, she lives independently in a retirement home and she wins the award for the most senior of my Inspirational Wise Elders. I have learned much from June since the time I “adopted” her. I have learned about my Mom – things  that my Mom probably shared with no one else, as she was a very private person. Among my happiest recent successes is finding a wonderful young Girl Scout who has taken on June and her beloved “Jackie” as a service project – showing up a couple of times a week to walk the dog.  June feared that she might have to give Jackie up because she was no longer able to walk him.  Thank you sweet Abbey for stepping up to make all the different in June’s life.     

Here are June’s answers to my questions:     

1) Looking back from where you are at age 100, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?     

A: ”Life is filled with so many lessons; I could not choose just one. The high values my parents believed in and their personal creed for living a virtuous life were the most important lessons taught to my brother and me, and have been corroborated by everything I have learned since.”     

2) If you could pass on one thing to those younger folks who follow….something you wish you had learned or realized sooner – what would that be?     

A: ”Be wise and plan for tomorrow – and also enjoy today!”     

3) What brings you happiness and joy and makes life worth living?     

A: “My family, my friends, my Christian faith, being able to keep in touch with what is going on in the world, and my little dog.”     


This article was published by the Klamath Falls Herald when June turned 100 years old on June 1, 2010:      

By RYAN PFEIL H&N Staff Writer       

June Kirlin didn’t think she would make it to 100 years old, but with her centennial celebration today at Crystal Terrace in Klamath Falls, it’s suddenly become a reality.      

The Iowa native, born June 1, 1910, has seen quite a lot in her 100 years, much of which has been spent in front of a piano or organ. She credits that and her family as her two favorite parts in life.      

Kirlin hasn’t played in the past two years due to health issues, but she’s got quite an accomplished resume. She’s played with the Seattle Philharmonic and Women’s Philharmonic in San Francisco, and had her original compositions played all over the U.S. Some even found their way to Brazil, she said.      

“I’ve worked hard, that’s the bottom line,” Kirlin said. “But it’s work I love.”      

Finding music      

Born in Columbus, Wis., Kirlin moved to Spencer, Iowa, a few years after her birth. While growing up in the rural town of 10,000 people, Kirlin was introduced to the piano. She played her first solo recital when she was five years old and started teaching lessons at 14.      

“I started early,” Kirlin said. In time, she began writing her own music. It became addictive. Nature inspired the notes — images of waterfalls, lakes and rivers.      

“It’s like being hungry. It’s something you have to do,” Kirlin said. “You hear them in your head. It was just compelled to write it down.”      

Her composing ability found brought her to the University of Iowa during the 1940s. The school contacted her while she worked as a musical director at a radio station in town and asked her to write background music for a documentary on the state they were producing. She said seeing the finished product was rewarding.      

Her compositions also found their way into musical libraries and were published in national anthologies.      

Kirlin moved to Oregon 25 years ago when her husband got a job with the Lane County School District. She lived in Eugene until six years ago, when her husband passed away and she moved to Klamath Falls to live near her daughter.      

‘I can’t complain’      

Even with a lifetime of music behind her, Kirlin hasn’t played a note in the last two years. “I miss it,” she said. “It’s so funny because now I have time where I had to steal it before.”      

She’s looking forward to her centennial celebration party at Crystal Terrace. When asked if there is anything left in life she’d like to do, she said no.      

“I can’t complain,” Kirlin said. “I’ve had 100 years. It’d be pretty ungrateful to ask for anything else.”      

Inspirational Wise Elder – Perry Barth

I’ve known Perry Barth about 25 years since the day he recruited me to be a charter member of the Downtown Seattle Exchange Club – a service club that did good things in the world and met every week at the Washington Athletic Club. Perry had already retired as the Music Director at Ballard High School where he was known far and wide for inspiring kids and getting the best out of them. “His babies” were the Marching Band, the Stage Band and the Concert Band. He also consistently had award winning dance bands. 

Perry was a lucky guy to be married to two wonderful women, both of whom died of cancer after many years of marriage. Perry is nearly 86 years old, still living independently and full of life.   He has 9 children and step children and numerous grandkids. Here are his answers to my three questions:

Q:  Looking back from where you are at age 85, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

A: “ 1) To not take myself too seriously.

        2) Pay attention to and take care of service people – waiters and waitresses, hotel maids, etc.

        3) Keep  my mouth shut and listen more.”

Q: If you could pass on one thing to those younger folks who follow – something you wish you had learned or realized sooner – what would that be?

A: “To tell people that you love them.”

Q: What brings you happiness and joy and makes life worth living?

A: “My Health, Family, Friends, and Fly Fishing!” 

Perry has a great sense of humor and always a twinkle in his eye.  His wives Mary Lou and Francis taught him to cook and he’s always volunteering to bring home-cooked food or fish that he caught & smoked.  He is a great friend and a true inspiration to me and to many.