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Tukwila centenarian wows first graders at Tukwila Elementary

100-year-old Thelma Flaquinti poses with the first graders in Sandra Munoz’s  (in the background) class at Tukwila Elementary School. Flaquinti and the students shared experiences, including roller skating. - Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter
100-year-old Thelma Flaquinti poses with the first graders in Sandra Munoz’s (in the background) class at Tukwila Elementary School. Flaquinti and the students shared experiences, including roller skating.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter

At 100, Thelma Flaquinti still finds it easy to relate to 6 and 7 year olds.

The centenarian, who turns 101 on Sept. 18, spent some time recently with the first graders in Sandra Munoz’s class at Tukwila Elementary School.

They already know each other a little, having exchanged special cards over the last several months, including for Valentine’s Day and Easter.

The cards hang on Flaquinti’s bedroom door.

Munoz has been connecting her students with someone who is 100 years old for several years. Flaquinti is the mother of Elaine Canon, who taught in the Tukwila schools for 45 years, including at Tukwila Elementary School.

Flaquinti lives with her daughter in Tukwila. She was born in 1912 in Minneapolis. For most of her life, she was a stay-at-home-mom says Canon.

The students had cards all ready for her again Wednesday. Mya Campos’s was typical. It read:

Dear Mrs Flaquinti

You are a nice person. You are the best. You are awesome. Love Mya.

Flaquinti writes back with the help of her daughter. “The kids are just thrilled,” Munoz said, when they receive her letters.

For the visit, the first grades made a sign welcoming Flaquinti. They stood outside their classroom with the sign as she approached down the hallway, smiling. Then they posed for photos.

Inside, the students sat on the floor in front of Flaquinti and her daughter and their teacher, excited finally to meet their new friend. It was, perhaps, the first time they had met a centenarian.

Each related something they liked to do, from playing basketball, to reading, to solving math problems to roller-skating to jumping rope.

Mya’s nickname is “monkey”

“I like the monkey bars,” she told Flaquinti.

It turns out Flaquinti was an accomplished jump roper at that age.

“Oh, I used to jump rope. I used to jump rope to 500,” she said, to the amazement of the students. They were given the challenge to go outside and count to 500 jump roping.

And Flaquinti roller skated, using a hockey stick as a brake. She was athletic, playing baseball, even before high school in a traveling women’s league. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle during the Depression.

Munoz said the connections she’s making between her students and centenarians are both educational and social, helping them with their writing skills and teaching that you can have a friend of any age.

Munoz stresses the importance of family.

“We try to nurture that feeling of respect and compassion for all people,” she said.

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