Powell House Resident Turns 100


Her fair skin -- more smooth than wrinkled -- belies her age: Mary Mitchell will turn 100 on Easter Sunday.

"I'm just a year older," she said when asked how it feels to reach the century mark.


Mary Mitchell is more enthusiastic about the Easter baskets she and fellow residents of the Powell House are crafting for Easter than she is about turning 100 years old April 27.

Her beauty secret is washing with Ivory soap and using a little Ponds skin cream.

"And I stayed out of the sun. I always wore a hat when I gardened," she said.

As for the secret to her long life, she isn't sure if it's the reason, but she said she never drank liquor or smoked, and neither did her parents.

Mitchell was born and raised near Hibbing, Minn., in a little place called Kitzville, where the Oliver Mining Co. had an iron ore operation. She was one of 12 children and the oldest daughter. She had two younger sisters and nine brothers.

One of her family's favorite stories is about how Mitchell, her sisters and brothers would pass the time watching bears at the dump.

"We'd go out every evening to watch the bears and their cubs come to the dump looking for food," she said. "One of our friends would collect cooking grease in a can and set it out for them, so they would come to it first."

She was in the first collegiate nursing program in the country at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis. "It was a four-year program, but I finished it in three," she said. One of her classmates, Ellen Church, founded the flight attendant industry, Mitchell said. At that time, the attendants on planes had to be nurses.

Upon finishing school, Mitchell went to work in a tuberculosis sanitarium outside of Minneapolis. She worked in the children's building and eventually became the building's head nurse.

She married her first husband, Vern Larsen, when she was 23, and continued to work as a private duty nurse. Mitchell and Larsen's daughters are June, who lives in Payson with her husband, Bob Rusch; Lola, who lives in Florida; and Gail, who is in Texas. The couple was together for 42 years before Larsen died of emphysema.

Her second husband was John Henry Mitchell, who was killed in a car wreck.

Mitchell came to Payson in the late 1990s and first lived with June and Bob. About two years after her arrival here, she moved into the Powell House.

"The people and staff are just great. It takes a certain type of people to work here," she said. "I feel very fortunate to live here. It's a wonderful place to be."

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