Seniors & Aging

Nearing 90, this pilot and business owner keeps busy with family ... and cuts a mean rug

Name: Ray Breakey

Age: 87

Residence: Bellingham

The next generations: Breakey and his wife Belle have four children and 15 grandchildren. ("I've never counted the great-grandkids.") Their portraits line the fireplace in his living room, with the typed names of family members in the lower corner of the frames.

Family first: Growing older, Breakey appreciates his family more than ever. Every day one of his kids comes in and out of the house, he says. "The kids are everything," he says. "We enjoy each other," and often spend time at Lake Whatcom.

Close ties: "All the kids are in and out of here like yoyos," Breakey says. "You never know when they'll show up." The Breakeys split their property among their children to live on -- a move that kept them close to home. A good share lives nearby , Breakey says. One of their daughters lives just across the street. They have a family get-together once a week.

On the job: At work, Breakey picks up the odd jobs no one else wants to do. His son and grandson have taken over his leasing busi-ness, Fountain Rental, which he started in 1947.

Founding Fountain: After his businessmoved into what eventually became the Fountain district, Breakey went around to businesses there and asked them to change their name to include "Fountain" to help advertising during the late '50s and early '60s. Bush's Bakery became Fountain Bakery,joining Fountain Hardwareand the recently closed Fountain Galleria. Now his son and grandson foster that same sense of community.Into the sky: Breakey enlisted in the Army the day after Japanattacked Pearl Harbor.Overseas during World War II , he learned to fly in patrol planes. "I got sort of hooked on it."

Fifty years of flight: On his birthday last February, the Federal Aviation Administration presented Breakey with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, which honors, among other things, holding an FAA flight certificate for 50 consecutive years. "It's nothing I did that no one else has ever done," Breakey says. "I just stuck around longer."

Surprise party: Breakey "had no idea" he was going to be awarded that honor. "The kids did it," he says. "I'm getting so they can sneak things on me now."

Staying in the sky: Every Sunday Breakey flies his Cessna 182 with his brother-in-law Jim Higginson to visit friends on Lopez Island while his wife is at church.

Early riser: Breakey rises at 5:30 a.m. to take care of his animals before heading to the shop at 8 a.m. to fuel the trucks and tie up loose ends.

Tending the farm: Now down to one horse, the Breakeys kept several horses when their children were growing up to keep their girls out of trouble, they say, but got rid of their cattle "years ago."Breakey's border collie "used to follow me around like a shadow," but has retired to lying down in his old age. Now a Pomera-niannamed Smokey keeps close to Breakey's heels when he visits the farm.

Dancing shoes: Married for 61 years, Ray and Belle foxtrot, waltz and tango in a dance league every month at the Leopold Retirement Residence. A band plays the first Wednesday of the month. "It's older folk, and younger, surprisingly enough," Breakey says.

Traveling times: Breakey and his wife drive to Twisponce a year to catch the last round of the Oregon Trail wagon train reenactment and help their daughter cook for the annual event.

Staying in the game: "I'll keep chugging along and doing what keeps me going," Breakey says. "I don't want to sit and watch the boob tube."

Living life to the fullest: "Everyone should."