101-year-old makes acting debut in Richland

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 28, 2013 

Loris "Brink" Brinkman is a 101-year-old card shark when it comes to playing Bridge.

"I do love to play cards," he said. "I play almost every day."

Playing cards helps keep him sharp, he confessed, but he never thought he would live to such a ripe old age.

"I thought if I made it to 80 years old, I'd be doing well," he said. "But now that I'm 101, I guess the only advice I could offer is do everything in moderation."

This lively centenarian also doesn't let age stand in the way of tackling new adventures, like making his acting debut portraying Handsome Harry in the play McGillicuddy's Farm.

The play was performed by residents of the Wynnwood Columbia Edgewater retirement center in Richland for their own entertainment.

Though he never has been in a play before, Brinkman isn't nervous about stepping into the spotlight.

"There's no dialogue for me to remember, as there will be a narrator speaking for all the characters, and that was a big relief for me," Brinkman joked. "But it's been kind of fun acting out the part."

McGillicuddy's Farm follows a storyline similar to the '60s TV series, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, where Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties always was saving the fair Nell Fenwick from the nefarious Snidely Whiplash.

In the McGillicuddy version, however, Petunia is the damsel in distress. Her parents are threatened with losing their farm by Desperate Desmond unless they pay the mortgage. And like most sleezy crooks, Desmond tells Petunia if she marries him he will forgive the mortgage payment.

Well, Petunia isn't about to tie herself to the conniving Desmond because she loves Handsome Harry.

And just like all goofy love stories, Harry comes to the rescue. He secures the money for the mortgage, tells Desmond to take a hike, marries Petunia, her parents keep the farm and everyone lives happily ever after.

Brinkman figures he will have no problem being Handsome Harry because he already is a bit of a lady's man, he admits with a shy smile.

"The women definitely outnumber the men around here, and they all like attention, so I'm happy to oblige," he said.

"The play was written by the wife of an Episcopal priest," said Jean Westsik, 86, who has been scrambling for few weeks to get the event organized. "I've seen it a few times and thought Brink would make the perfect Handsome Harry, and he's doing a fine job."

Westsik's longtime friend Owen Bratvold, 80, is the despicable Desmond.

"I'm really getting a kick out of playing a bad guy," Bratvold said with a mischievous grin. "I've already earned a bit of a reputation around here because he's such a bad guy."

But finding someone to play Nell has been a much more challenging task, Westsik said. Four female residents of the Columbia Edgewater have been cast in the role, but had to back out for health reasons. And the fifth understudy was injured recently and it's unknown if she'll be recovered in time.

"We're hoping this last understudy will be OK by (curtain time)," she said. "But whatever happens, we'll deal with it."

Other challenges putting the show together is the location of the production, which is being performed in the retirement home's dining hall instead of a theater stage.

"There's not a lot of room in there, so we're limited on how many chairs we can have for the audience and still have room for the set," she said. "Another challenge we've had is that the play calls for a set where the chirping birds, swaying trees and babbling brook are all played by people.

"But the best part of all these challenges is that everyone involved is having a ball. And when you get to be as old as we are, it's worth the fun."

As for Brinkman, he doesn't plan to head to Hollywood anytime soon. He pretty much leaves performing up to one of his three children, his daughter Kippy Lou Brinkman, a professional harpist. She also is a former Miss Tri-Cities and Miss Seattle, and in 1965 won the Miss Washington crown.

Brinkman moved to the Tri-Cities in 1943 to work at Hanford as an civil engineer. He stayed for a year and took a job on the East Coast.

"But I always liked the Tri-Cities, so in 1948 we (moved) back out here," he said.

Brinkman and his late wife Aline raised their children here, which also includes daughter Sandra Allen and son George. All three now live on the East Coast, he said.

He also has three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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