Blaine real estate agent celebrates 99th birthday – Blaine Northern Light

At 99, Joyce Vanderpol is the oldest real estate managing broker in Washington state. She wakes up every morning, and makes coffee and a breakfast sandwich, before heading to her office in downtown Blaine. Most weeks she clocks in at nearly 60 hours, seven days per week – some Sundays she takes a few hours off.
“People ask me what do you attribute living so long,” she said. “What I answer is, I think positively.”
Vanderpol, who celebrated her 99th birthday on January 14, was born alongside her twin sister, Renie, in the then small town of Kirkland in 1924. Her mother hailed from London and met her father, an American WWI soldier, at a dance for troops while awaiting transfer back to the U.S. After falling madly in love, he sent money for voyage on a ship to join him in New York, which in those days took 10 days. The pair intended on settling in California but met a real estate agent while traveling through Kirkland and never left.
Upon graduating high school, Vanderpol worked for the Farm Security Administration, a New Deal agency to aid rural communities during the Great Depression era. Vanderpol met her husband, Nicholas, in the seventh grade, later marrying him just before he was shipped off. While he was stationed at Whidbey Island’s Naval air station, Vanderpol worked in administration at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Blaine.
After 30 years in civil service, Vanderpol retired, purchasing an IBM Selectric typewriter for $1,000 with her saved annual leave. She then earned an associate’s degree from Whatcom Community College. She transitioned into real estate, working under a broker for 2.5 years before opening her own office on Peace Portal Drive with about six agents. Vanderpol’s first purchase and sale agreement consisted of only two legal-size pages. Now those are about 20 letter-size pages, she said.
In the mid-80s, Vanderpol separated from her agents and opened a one-person office. She currently works out of her Vanderpol Realty and Notary office at 289 H Street. Washington State Department of Licensing spokesperson Christine Anthony said in an email that Vanderpol is the oldest active real estate managing broker licensed in Washington. 
Asked what her favorite part of real estate is, Vanderpol said, “Locating a house that makes the buyer happy. Trying to please him or her. After interviewing the people, you really have to listen carefully to what they want and write it down.”
Vanderpol has now spent three decades in real estate. She said the reason she’s continued working full time into her late 90s is because her twin sister, Renie, died of cancer in July 2020. 
“When she died I felt like I wanted to continue to have something to do,” Vanderpol said. “I continued with my real estate and continued playing tennis, to a lesser degree.” 
Vanderpol has maintained strong community involvement throughout the years. She served on Blaine’s airport commission, the parks commission and spent 25 years as president of Blaine Harborview Condo Association.
At the age of 85, Vanderpol started playing in tournaments throughout the U.S. professionally. The highlight of her career was being chosen by Wilson Sporting Goods to play in Austria. Vanderpol’s first singles match was won against a woman from New Caledonia. Vanderpol was a Semiahmoo tennis club member before she stopped playing last year due to balance.  
She enjoys shooting pool and playing chess, which she plans to resume at Blaine Senior Center.
“Don’t just sit at home watching TV. Get out and start walking and get into activities at the senior center,” she recommended to fellow seniors. “Go to the senior center and you can meet people there. You can have lunch  and dinners to take home there. It’s quite an opening for seniors.”
About 25 years ago, Vanderpol hired a contractor to have her first spec house built for sale. She became involved in the design, materials, location and what she believed the buyers desired. She would then invest that profit in building another spec house. 
Last year, she had her 10th house built on Cherry Street. Vanderpol decided it would be her last home because the cost of lots and materials were too much to arrive at a reasonable price without gouging the customer.
“I really felt disappointed, personally. I’m in real estate and other people don’t think this way but I thought it was too much for a person to pay for a house,” she said. “There’s always the chance that they couldn’t get a loan because interest rates were going up so ultimately, it wasn’t the proper thing for me to do at the time.”
Vanderpol used the money from the sale of the Cherry Street home to support Blaine Library, Blaine Food Bank and Blaine Senior Center.
As for celebrating her 99th birthday, Vanderpol had lunch at Great Blue Heron with a dozen people and balloons. A week later, she and 99-year-old Bellingham resident Aurelie Hurd celebrated their birthdays at Tony’s Tavern in Custer.
Vanderpol said she plans on staying in real estate as long as her body permits.
“I was going to say, ‘For the rest of my life,’” she said. “But is that too gloomy a statement?” 
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