South Tahoe woman turns 100 |

South Tahoe woman turns 100

Isaac Brambila
Jean Verne Dahlinger (left) and Activity Director for the Barton Memorial Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility Maureen Cooper hold Dahlinger’s 100th birthday cake during a celebration at the hospital on Wednesday.
Isaac Brambila/Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — There were more than 30 people in the room, many more who filtered in and out throughout the celebration, and everyone made it a point to walk up to Jean Verne Dahlinger and shake her hand, give her a hug or a kiss on the cheek.

Gathered on Wednesday at Barton Skilled Nursing Facility were family members, friends, hospital personnel and a group of students from the South Tahoe High School Jazz Band. As a birthday present the band played a few songs for Dahlinger.

Everybody in the room seemed amazed by Dahlinger’s presence, and maybe rightly so. Not everyone makes it to 100 years old.

Dahlinger diligently observed from her wheelchair. She had a birthday balloon in her right hand and a smile on her face. Occasionally, tears rolled down her face, especially when people close to her congratulated her.

Dahlinger has lived through 100 birthdays, two World Wars and the Great Depression. The world, during her lifetime, has seen drastic changes, technologically, geographically and even socially and morally.

Dahlinger’s story developed within that changing world.

She was born on Nov. 12, 1914 and raised in Los Angeles.

Early on, she faced a health challenge. It was a challenge that would later change the entirety of her life path in a positive way.

When she was 5 years old, a doctor told her mother Dahlinger was too thin and suggested she enroll her in a dance class.

Dahlinger fell in love with the dancing.

She continued dancing and, 10 years later, when she was 15, she was hired by a dance troupe and traveled to New York City to perform.

Dancing gave Dahlinger the opportunity to travel throughout the country on an eight-month tour.

Still, while she was able to travel and continue doing what she loved, much of the population in the country struggled with the biggest economic challenge the nation had ever seen – the Great Depression.

Oddly enough, what was seen as a problem when she was 5 years old, led Dahlinger to be able to help keep her family afloat during the rough times.

The earnings from dancing tours and performances helped her family keep food on the table.

Financial relief, however, was not the only gift dancing gave Dahlinger.

While still working as a dancer, at age 20, she met John Dahlinger, a theatrical agent at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. John was the agent for USO shows and placed theatrical people in projects.

John and Jean dated for awhile and got married on Dec. 25, 1934.

They married on Christmas Day because that was the only day they both had off of work.

After getting married, Dahlinger left the career that had given her relief during the Great Depression, so she could raise a family.

She and John had three children. That family later grew larger with eight grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

In 1962, when living in Burlingame in the Bay Area, Jean and John bought “The Village Pet Shop” and managed it together until John’s death in 1971. Jean kept running the store until retiring in 1982.

Jean moved to South Lake Tahoe 17 years ago and has lived in Tahoe since.

She is cared for at Barton, where she was named “Resident of the Month” by the Skilled Nursing Facility’s personnel.

“Jean is known for her very positive outlook on life,” Director for the Barton Skilled Nursing Facility Maureen Froyum said. “I remember when she first came to the skilled nursing facility and she told me this is the smallest place she has ever lived, but she is the happiest. We love our ‘Jean, Jean, the Dancing Machine,’ is what we affectingly call her.”

Dahlinger continues to expand her 100-year story at Barton.

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