A Life Spanning Three Centuries

Secret to living a long life 'enjoy it, don't be a crab'


New Year, schmoo year. Blanche Eddleston isn't impressed.

The new century? That's old hat, too. At 12:01 a.m on New Year's Day, she'll begin her third.

As for the prospect of ushering in a brand new millennium, well, OK. That will be a first-time event for her. And you don't experience many things for the first time when you're 102 years old.

Maybe that's why Eddleston vows to be up and partying at the dawn of the 21st century.

A more likely answer, though, is that at this point in Eddleston's life, she's simply not about to pass up an opportunity to have a good time.

George Burns was 8 years her junior when he said, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."

Eddleston had no idea she'd ever be a centenarian-plus. But she took care of herself at any rate.

"The most important thing is to have a family that loves you," she said, outlining the secrets of her longevity. "Eating well must be important, too, because I eat like a little pig. You've got to exercise. And you need a sense of humor. You've got to be able to enjoy life. Don't be a crab!"

One thing Eddleston doesn't credit for her long life is genetics. Her grandparents died in their 80s, her parents in their 70s.

Born June 13, 1898, in Sioux City, Iowa, Eddleston was the oldest of 12 siblings. She has outlived all but an 84-year-old sister. In 1915, she married Leo Downey, with whom she had a daughter, Evelyn, in 1919. After her husband died in 1941, she married John Eddleston in 1948.

They moved to Payson from Long Beach, Calif. in 1972, to be closer to Evelyn, now 81, and Evelyn's husband, George Copp. John died in 1984.

And the dates of such pivotal events remain as clear to Eddleston now as when they happened. She can rattle off every significant date in her life -- including exact days and months -- with the speed and accuracy of an auctioneer announcing incoming bids.

Although age may have had its expected effect on Eddleston's hearing and the density of her bones she's broken several, including her hip, over the past few years her memory could put The Amazing Kreskin out of business.

Ask about the first car she ever owned, she'll list every automobile she ever had, in the order she had them: a Ford sedan, then a Pontiac, a Buick ...

Inquire about Eddleston's 70-year membership with a Masonic order called Eastern Star, and you'll learn she was a worthy matron in 1937, housing chairman in 1939, publishing chairman in '41, deputy matron in 1946 ...

"Oh, don't ask about the Eastern Star. She'll never shut up," kidded her daughter, Evelyn, when it was far too late.

And whatever you do, don't ask Eddleston if she's happy at Payson Care Center, where she's lived for 11 years. She'll praise the establishment, its employees, its food and amenities as if she were the center's paid celebrity spokesperson.

"You pay for the care you get, and here you get good care," she said.

When visitors somehow manage to wrestle the floor from Eddleston, they can get her to discuss other things, such as:

Best invention of the 20th century: "Electricity. But television is good. It educates and entertains."

Worst memory of the 20th century: "Falling down and breaking bones."

Best memory of the 20th century: "Oh, traveling all over the world," Eddleston said, citing 11 European countries, all 5 Hawaiian islands, South America, the South Pole via the Panama Canal, and every other state in the union including Alaska.

Most beautiful place she's visited: "Hawaii and all of its beautiful gardens."

Best movie of the 20th century: "I rarely went to movies. I was too busy with the Eastern Star."

Best food of the 20th century: "Apple pie!"

What she'll do on the first day of her third century: "Wish everyone a very happy new year."

And finally, advice for a visiting reporter: "Spell my name right ... and do everything you can to live as long as me."

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