Friends planning to attend Marcel Van Driesche’s birthday bash next month barely outnumber the number of years the Stayton mainstay will celebrate at the event, but, he said, that’s fast changing.
“More and more people have said they’re coming,” said Van Driesche, known as Van to his friends.
To date, some 135 people have said they hope to share food and fun with Van Driesche Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. at the Stayton Community Center. “And I can only have 120!” he said, chuckling.
Since folks can come and go within the few hours of celebrating, he figures the numbers will work out.
“Anyone who knows and loves Van is welcome,” said Cassie Sessums, owner of the Covered Bridge Café where Van Driesche hangs out for a couple of hours every morning. The restaurant will cater the event, with sandwiches, salads, fruits and cookies on the menu.
The Lovin’ Oven will provide the birthday cake, Ken Cartwright, the music, and popcorn and peanuts will be on every table to represent the many years Van Driesche owned and ran the Star Theater, Sessums said.
Van Driesche is excited to be celebrating with his family and friends, he said.
“Probably the last big show we’ll have,” he added.
His answer to living 97 years – most of them in Stayton? “I guess they don’t want me yet!” he said, jokingly.
Van Driesche’s philosophy is that if people do the “fair, honest, right thing and don’t worry, it’ll always come out in the end.”
“If you live within moderation of everything you do – don’t smoke, don’t drink or chase wild women all day – just do what’s right …,” he added, with a chuckle.
Van Driesche rattled off a few of his life’s accomplishments matter-of-factly: Stayton mayor for 12 years, basketball coach, school teacher for seven years, golf player for 15, Star Theater owner for 30 and retired for 30 more.
“I was married 67 years,” he added. “My wife died five years ago, and now I live alone. But I’m fine. I go to coffee every morning.”
Some of Van Driesche’s five children as well as a few of his grandkids and great-grandkids will attend the celebration, too.
“They’re scattered from coast to coast,” he said before proudly citing some of their accomplishments.
Van Driesche said he is looking forward to sharing a little bit of history with partygoers. Much of his knowledge he gleaned from years of serving the Stayton community. “A Time to Remember” is the apt theme for the birthday bash.
“I like to have fun!” Van Driesche said.