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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

May 5, 2014


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Montana Centenarians to be honored in Kalispell, Bozeman

One Centenarian recalls having to ‘walk halfway down a mountain’ for drinking water

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will honor Montana Centenarians Tuesday, May 6 in Kalispell at the Red Lion Hotel and Thursday, May 8 in Bozeman at the Holiday Inn during noon luncheons.

Both luncheons are part of the 46th annual Governor’s Conference on Aging. Guest speakers for the luncheons will be Governor Steve Bullock in Kalispell and Lt. Gov. Angela McLean in Bozeman.

DPHHS Director Richard Opper will also be speaking at both conferences.

“The Governor’s Conference on Aging provides a great opportunity for our Montana seniors and their families to learn about programs and services they may need as they age,” Director Opper said. “One of the best parts of the conference is honoring Montana Centenarians. They have lived through so much, and have such amazing stories to tell.”

DPHHS recently asked Montanans to submit the names of Centenarians, and that list is at 90 names and growing. The DPHHS Centenarian list of those over age 101 is as follows:

  • 3 are age 106
  • 4 are age 104
  • 11 are age 103
  • 12 are age 102, and
  • 25 are age 101.

The three individuals age 106 live in Helena, Clancy and Corvallis.

In addition, DPHHS recently asked Montana Centenarians their secret to longevity, the most amazing event in their life and a favorite quote.

Here were a few of the responses:

Forrest Sanford Thompson, age 101, Bigfork. He says his secret to longevity is “working each day.” Thompson was a cabinet maker and carpenter until he retired at age 93. And, his favorite quote is “do a honest day’s work for a honest day’s pay.”

Rueben Nelson, age 101, Kalispell. Nelson said his secret to longevity is “hard work and clean living” and his secret to longevity is “years of farm work, and eating meat and vegetables he grew on the farm.” He also recalls “walking halfway down the mountain to get water for drinking and cooking.”

Marie Gambill, age 102, Bozeman. Gambill said her secret to longevity is that she “firmly believes in keeping busy.” Her favorite quote is “may you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is best forgotten.” In the 1970s, Gambill went door-to-door in the Bozeman community to encourage residents to pass a city bond issue to build the Bozeman Senior Center. Gambill went on to deliver food to seniors through the Meals on Wheels Program for several decades.

Elsie Nelson, age 101, Havre. Nelson said the most amazing event in her life was “being educated so she could teach, and also being able to vote.” She also said she is not a “giver-upper.” When she was young, she hitchhiked all the way to her sister’s house miles away. During her trip, she stopped at a stranger’s house and knocked on the door asking to spend the night. The lady of the house said ‘yes’, and even fed Elsie breakfast before she left the next morning.

Ida Kirack, age 101, Kalispell. Kirak said the most amazing event in her life is the “invention of the washing machine.”

Henry James Dahl, age 100, Helena. Dahl says his motto to live by has been to “keep busy and do the best you can each day.” His most amazing events are building race cars, hunting, traveling and the enjoying the company of others.

The annual Conference on Aging is planned with the help of local citizens and focuses on issues of local interest related to Montana seniors and their families. This year’s conferences will cover a variety of topics including Alzheimer’s, estate planning, healthy aging, fraud and abuse, drug interaction, home safety, identity theft, grandparents raising grandchildren, older drivers, and affordable, safe senior living.

According to DPHHS officials, Montana has one of the fastest growing 65 and older populations in the nation. In Montana, 1,065 people turn 65 every month or 12,775 people per year. And, this trend will continue for the next 17 years.

Additional conference information can be found at http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/sltc/services/aging/conference/

Page last updated 05/05/2014