Active Del Mar resident celebrates 95th birthday

Charlotte Gumbrell, who turns 95 on Saturday, has lived in Del Mar for about 25 years.
(Luke Harold)

After raising a family in Cardiff, moving to the Bay Area and returning to North County for good, Del Mar resident Charlotte Gumbrell will celebrate her 95th birthday this Saturday, March 7.

One of her biggest life lessons?

“You’ve got to do what you want to do when it’s important to you,” said Gumbrell, who has lived in Del Mar for about 25 years. “You don’t want to look back on your life and say, ‘I wish I had done that.’”

She said she likes to reflect on her life in 20-year segments. The first 20 started with her childhood in Los Angeles, where she was born in a maternity home at Griffith Park in 1925. After her father left the family when she was 3, Gumbrell grew up with her older brother, stepfather and mother, whose job as a secretary helped keep the family afloat during the Great Depression.

Gumbrell was 17 when she married her first husband, George, 21, at Forest Lawn, a cemetery in L.A. that also has a wedding chapel. They honeymooned at Lake Arrowhead. She said she wasn’t quite ready for marriage, but George hoped the nuptials would help him avoid deployment to Europe during World War II. He ended up serving in Korea in the mid 1940s while enlisted in the army.

Over the next 20 years, she and George settled in Cardiff. They had three children, Bill, Laurie and Pamela, who attended the local schools, including Cardiff Elementary and Oakcrest Middle School. By the mid-1960s, Gumbrell said, her marriage to George had run its course. She decided to move to San Francisco by herself.

Over the next 10 years, she lived in San Francisco and Oakland, working various jobs including secretary.

She returned to North County by the early 1970s, living the following 20 years in Encinitas with her second husband Arthur Gumbrell, who was the superintendent of the San Dieguito Union High School District. They first met 10 years prior while she worked as a secretary in the district. They spent time living in England and Mexico for a job he took with United States International University. He died in 1992. Gumbrell moved to Del Mar, where she’s lived ever since.

She celebrated her birthday early this year with her children, grandchildren and other family members over each of the past two weekends, and plans to celebrate with her stepdaughter’s family this weekend.

Gumbrell said she attributes her longevity to staying active. Over the years, her hobbies have included playing tennis, bicycling and skiing. She still boogie boards in the summer.

In the mid 1980s, she helped start the Get Off Your Rockers club to help local seniors get involved in a wide array of recreational activities. She was also involved with Del Mar Community Connections, which provides programs and services for senior citizens.

“Fun is important to me,” Gumbrell said. “Life is really short when you think about it. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing.”

Gumbrell still enjoys weekly ballroom dancing events hosted by the Encinitas Rotary Club, and added that she’s been lucky to make it to 95 without major recurring health issues.

“If I were 100, then I would say that would really be something,” she added.