YAKIMA, Wash. — Mary Stensrud’s dream is to give blood on her 100th birthday.
“Well, I have five years to go,” the 94-year-old quipped in her living room Friday afternoon. “Actually, I am in good health.”
She turns 95 on Aug. 30, and her donations to blood banks stretch back to 1946, when she donated her first pint in Tacoma.
“It was just something you did because someone asked you to,” she said.
Since then, she has given more than 32 gallons of blood. No other donor in the Yakima Valley has ever come close to that amount, said local Red Cross executive director Lisa Reinhart.
“She’s pretty amazing,” Reinhart said. “She’s just as feisty as ever and she’s just taken it upon herself to give back.”
And on Thursday, the Downtown Yakima Rotary club presented her with the Unsung Hero award to honor her long-standing commitment to the blood bank.
“I appreciate the Rotary for recognizing her because she is an amazing woman,” Reinhart said.
Stensrud gave often, but became more diligent in 1955 when she received a blood transfusion after giving birth to her late son, Jim. He died in a car accident in 1977.
“I wouldn’t be here if someone didn’t give blood to me,” she said. “Apparently they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. I found that I had a transfusion when I came to.”
From that time on, she consistently gave blood, except for the years she gave birth to her other three children.
She has other awards for her generosity. On a wall in a hallway of her West Yakima home, there are awards from the Red Cross. One features 32 small pins each in the shape of blood drops and arranged in the shape of one large blood drop. It’s a Thank You Award. There’s also a 2011 Blood Hero Award and a Blood Donor Hero Award — both from the Red Cross.
She said the Red Cross was good about informing the public of blood drives through the years.
But after her blood transfusion, she began marking her calendar on the next date she could give again, using the stickers Red Cross hands out to donors.
For many years, she gave a pint of blood after the recommended 56-day waiting period.
“I think it was something in my mind that I could do, should do and can do to help other people,” she said.
When Stensrud turned 66, she had to undergo tests to ensure her blood was still healthy in order to keep donating.
“So they said ‘well, you passed the same tests everyone else has so you can keep giving until you’re 100,’” she said with a laugh. “So, I’ll give it when I make that mark.”
She hopes she will inspire other elderly people to donate blood.
“It’s going to get across to elderly people that they can go down and try to donate blood. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the object to all of this.”
• Phil Ferolito can be reached at 509-577-7749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.