Payson Resident Will Celebrate 104th Birthday On The Dance Floor

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The first American subway opened in Boston in 1897.

That was also the year Johannes Brahms died.

Within that same 12-month period, birth certificates were issued to famed reporter Walter Winchell, literary giants Thornton Wilder and William Faulkner, film stars Marion Davies, Charles Boyer and Walter Pidgeon ...

... And Payson's Montana "Mont" McKean, who has very happily outlived all of those long-goners.

In fact, when June 15 rolls around, Mont call her Montana at your own risk will celebrate her 104th birthday. And she has every intention of dancing the night away just as she did on her 102nd birthday, when she joined her son, Byron McKean, in a waltz around the dance floor.

"I love dancing," Mont said. "I love to waltz. And Byron is a good dancer!"

The firm grip she maintains on her passion for dancing is hardly the only remarkable thing about this four-year Powell House resident. As Mont herself is proud to tell you, she still has her own teeth, she wears no hearing aid, she uses glasses only for reading, and she walks and exercises every day. (The cane that's by Mont's side is usually put there by folks who think she needs it a whole lot more than she does.)

"I walk every day just to keep my legs going. I want to keep walking ... I don't like to sit all the time. I've already worn out one pair of shoes since I've been here!"

That exercise has paid off in a big way. Last October, Mont took a fall and broke her hip. Within five hours after surgery, Byron says, Mont was up and walking again.

Born in Dandridge, Tenn., Mont has no idea why her mother chose to name her Montana. "I don't think she had ever been there," she says. "But I never let anyone ever call me Montana. My name is Mont! I don't want to be named after a state!"

Mont was six when she and her family traveled by train to Brownwood, Texas. There she finished high school and college, where she pursued her passions in piano and violin and carved a career for herself as a music teacher.

She ended that profession, though, in 1923, when she married Elmo B. McKean and moved to the oil boom-town of Luling, Texas. Ten years later, the couple had their first and only child: Byron McKean, now 68, who now lives in Payson, too, with his wife, Coyla.

After Elmo died in 1949, Mont and her sister began to travel the world, and they didn't stop until they'd seen most of it. Mont says she doesn't recall too many of her exploits, but Byron clearly remembers one involving one of his mother's girdles that was thrown out of a hotel window in Europe. The undergarment landed on one of the establishment's street-level awnings, where it proved to be quite a conversation piece for passers-by.

Byron and Coyla were the first to discover the Rim country in the mid-1990s. Mont didn't join them until 1997 when she was 100 years old and still had her own driver's license.

Asked for the secret of her longevity, Mont doesn't have to think long or hard.

"I have had a very happy life," she says, beaming. "I guess that's the main thing. And my grandmothers and grandfathers lived a long time; my mother and father lived to their 90s; and I had an aunt who lived to 104. So I guess I just picked it up somehow. But mostly, I've just got so much to be thankful for. It just makes me happy, that's all."

There is, however, one more secret that's not so easy to pry out of her. Anyone who thinks diet plays an important role in longevity might have to rethink their stance upon learning of Mont's favorite meal:

"I love the hamburgers at Macky's Grill. I go there whenever I can and order a hamburger, french fries and a Coca-Cola."

Further interrogation reveals yet another dietary secret, half of which Mont prefers to keep off the record: daily helpings of carrot salad with raisins and, well, let's just say a glass of her favorite red beverage.

Obviously, Mont's regimen is paying off.

"One time my mother told me that all of her friends were dying, and that she didn't have any more friends," recalls her son, Byron. "I said, 'Well, you should get some younger friends.' And she said, 'Well, I did, and they all died, too!"

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