For Birch Bay woman, 91, life never gets old

Published on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 by By Tara Nelson

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Some might say Joy MacKinnon Oravetz, of Birch Bay, has led a full life but that doesn’t mean she has stopped living.

At 91, the twice-widowed former journalist, cyclist, puppeteer and inboard hydroplane racing champion is still fiercely independent and vibrant with “nearly perfect vision.”

Between hair appointments and a lunch dates with friends, Oravetz can be found working on her fifth book, “The Essence of Joy,” or reading piles of books she borrowed from the Whatcom County Bookmobile.

She said she credits her health and perfect vision to a life-long vegan diet, which she started at the age of 17. Her two favorite standbys: Adam’s peanut butter and orange juice, the vitamin C from which she claims has kept her eyesight nearly perfect.

“I don’t even need glasses when I’m reading,” she said. “And I’ve never been sick in my life.”

The other ingredient could simply be her unrelenting passion for life and an attitude that refuses to let age get the better of her.

“You don’t have to get old,” she said. “You can just go down to the doctor and get your face smoothed and your hair tinted and wear nice clothes. You don’t have to look old.

“If people look old it’s their own fault.”

A former inboard hydroplane boat racer, she competed in her first race at the American Lake regatta in July of 1955 using her late husband’s boat.

From then, she went on to win the Pacific Northwest Women Inboard Hydroplane boat racing championship out of Seattle.

“It was fun,” she said. “One time I flipped the boat and I just held on to the boat and found an air pocket where I stayed until they rescued me.”

She has won several writing and journalism awards including the Skagit Valley Writers League Trophy for the writer of the year in 1976. One of her articles was picked up by Paul Harvey, commentator from the United Press International and broadcast on one of his noon radio programs.

“I used to think of myself as not capable of anything until I started writing,” she said. “When I did, I was amazed at my ability.”

“And I’ve never gotten sick of my life,” she said.