Businesswoman Barb Sellers, 82, of Fairview reflects on the road to Divine Mocha coffee shop.
Does the world’s oldest barista live and work in Fairview?
Barb Sellers thinks so.
“I’m a 1935 model,” the 82-year-old chirps proudly.
A familiar sight to anyone who’s driven along 223rd Avenue, Divine Mocha has been an East Multnomah County staple since it opened for business on Feb. 9, 2005, at 2010 N.E. Fairview Ave.
The coffee house, a one-woman show since the Great Recession, also serves as a base for Barb Sellers &Associates Realty Inc., which she runs with her son Tim. Her business card shows Sellers giving two thumbs up as she skydived on her 70th birthday.
Sellers lives in the other half of the building that looks out on willow trees and the gurgling Fairview Creek.
“I have three obstacles to get to work,” Sellers explains. “Door one, door two and door three.”
These days, Sellers gets up by at least 5:30 a.m. to catch Andrew Wommack’s television ministry, then she’s off to Walmart or Winco to do the daily shopping before opening the coffee joint. Seven at night usually finds her snug in bed.
Sellers is a devout woman of faith who attends His Gathering church in Milwaukie. Her steel-trap mind is filled with details as rich as the hot java she serves up every day but Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Missouri native not only remembers listening to the first news the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, but the call letters of the two radio stations that reported the surprise bombing that propelled the United States into World War II. For the record, they were KTTS – “Keep Tuned to Springfield” – and KWTO, which asked listeners to “Keep Watching the Ozarks.” Like many people, Sellers first reaction to the news was to wonder where Pearl Harbor was.
The winds of war swept the family from their home in Springfield, Mo., to nearby Neosho, then Belton and Childress, Texas, then McAlester, Oklahoma – locales where Seller’s father, Walter Stone, could find work building the forts and ammunition depots necessary for the looming conflict.
From there, the family heard the call of Henry Kaiser’s Swan Island shipyard in a then-sleepy Northwestern timber town called Portland.
“The beauty of that was, the people can stay put and the product sails away,” Sellers remembers.
They traveled to Oregon in May 1943 in a camper 22 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, with non-opening windows and no running water. Her mother, Juanita Marie Hurt Stone, complained that the sink was so small it couldn’t fit a salad plate. The family made frequent stops to repair the synthetic tires. During the war the Axis powers had diverted most rubber from America, and the rest was saved for the soldiers at the front.
Putting down roots in Oregon was a welcome change for an only child. By the time she graduated from Gresham High School in 1953, Sellers had studied at 16 schools in 12 years. She can still rattle off the names of her favorite teachers – history with Mrs. Jones, Ms. Pepper the P.E. teacher, and social studies with Mr. Satchwell. Singing in the choir led by Mr. Ott was by far her favorite.
She’s still nine credit hours shy of her home economics degree at San Jose State College, where she met her first husband, a Korean War vet getting $110 a month from the G.I. bill. Finding a wife added another $25.
“Good man, bad attitude,” she says of him.
Still, they had four children: Chip, Sue, Dan and Tim. Artwork by Tim’s wife, Kristina, adorns the walls of Divine Mocha. Her name for Tim is “Number Four,” as she relates to her brood by birth order.
Later, Sellers adopted three of her grandchildren and married a man named Ed DeWeese. He died on March 3, 2005, shortly after Divine Mocha opened, having suffered a series of strokes eight years earlier. She says taking care of him was her “privilege.”
“Many of my classmates are long gone. They don’t have the privilege of encouraging other people,” she notes. “I have a powerful memory, and my body is doing well. I have not been sick since Dec. 1, 2008.”
Religion runs deep through Sellers’ family. She can recite from the Book of John perfectly, and a stranger might mistake her for a preacher like her maternal grandfather, Robert Elijah Hurt. He was a traveling evangelist before the Great Depression dried up the supply of freewill offerings. The last gift he received was a live pig.
Sellers is just wrapping up her tale when a laconic man named Kurt comes inside to order a cup of joe. He likes the good coffee, good company – and the sandwiches.
” Turkey’s pretty good,” the regular admits under duress.
He turns to leave, and Barb calls out “Blessings on you!” It’s what she says to everyone who walks beneath the cross mounted above her front door.
She explains: “I want people to leave, loved.”
By Zane Sparling
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