Man Lived Life To The Fullest

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Editor's note: This story about Dee Anderson originally ran in the Payson Roundup on June 16, 2006. Anderson passed away on July 6. A memorial service was held for him at 11 a.m. this morning.

by Felicia Megdal, Roundup staff reporter

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Dee Anderson shared his life story with Roundup reporter Felicia Megdal last summer.

Ninety-four-year-old Dee Anderson owes his longevity to a steady diet of rib-eye steaks --medium rare -- fried potatoes and Miller High Life, the champagne of beers.

"He eats everything fried," said Anderson's wife, Betty, 83. "Everything they tell you not to do."

It's this diet of red meat; two glasses a night of chocolate malt, so full of ice cream that Betty can barely put the lid on the blender; and a breakfast of one toasted English muffin with gobs of butter and homemade strawberry jam that keeps him spry.

"There's so much butter, it would irk me," said Betty with her Lucille Ball-red hair in an up-do and always chuckling at her husband.

Especially when he reads his eclectic, self-styled anthology of poetry, which he's always quoting.

It's a hobby he inherited from his mother. Anderson's words recount generations of experience: The generosity of Louise Mandrell, the wonders of Viagra and the simple life he lives with his wife of 28 years.

They met in Phoenix in 1978. Betty had flown in from California to visit her sister and brother-in-law, who at the time worked for Anderson, a plaster contractor. After a five-month courtship, the couple married.

"We were attracted to each other," Anderson said. "Opposites attract. I'm so corny and she's so honest."

Dee Anderson, one of the few, remaining Rim Country old-timers, now pads around the Deer Creek mobile home he and Betty share. Although his gait has slowed with time, the spark of a youthful swagger still defines his movements.

The walls of the couple's home chronicle their long lives, with pictures of loved ones -- living and dead.

But Anderson's prized photos are those taken of Louise Mandrell at her concert at the Grand Palace theater in Branson, Mo.

He produced a pair of 8-by-10 photos of that evening: one of him posing with Mandrell and the other of Betty standing next to Mandrell. The country singer provided the Andersons with free, front-row tickets after Dee sent her a dozen red roses.

Move into the added-on den in the next room -- a chorus of a singing trophy head, a fish and a Santa Claus -- the kind you buy at Wal-Mart -- adorn the walls.

"My daughter buys them for me," Anderson said.

Anderson moved to Phoenix from Alta Dena, Calif. for health reasons in 1942.

"I had asthma," he said. "I didn't sleep in a bed for three years, because I couldn't breathe. I came here and one week later, I could breathe again."

That same year, Anderson visited the Rim Country for the first time. Back then, Highway 87 was a dirt road, and he braved it to play slot machines at the Elks bar, next to the Ox Bow Saloon on Main Street.

"I learned not to drink whiskey," he said. "I drank it where I found it and they found me where I drank it."

He said he and his old friend Gene Davis could have bought Kohl's Ranch for $26,000, horses and all.

"But we'd have starved to death," he added.

Back in Phoenix, Anderson raised race greyhounds, 15 to 20 of them on a farm, along with monkeys and a menagerie of other animals. His award-winning dogs chased trophies at tracks in Phoenix, Colorado and Tijuana, Mexico.

In 1951, Anderson purchased 5 acres of land in Star Valley, where the Plant Fair Nursery now stands and built a 24-by-40 cabin.

And then he picked up and moved to Montrose, Colo., keeping his property in Star Valley, and bought a 300-acre ranch for $1,300, from a guy named Mexican Joe.

There, he raised 145 head of registered Black Angus show cattle.

For Anderson, it's the only kind of meat. He still raises one Black Angus calf a year for slaughtering. To feed it, he drives down a descending dirt driveway on his golf cart.

"The best kind of beef is corn-fed," Anderson said. "You can smell it when you fry it. Anytime you can't taste or smell food, there's no point in eating it."

Anderson moved back to Star Valley in the 1970s, and 12 years ago headed west, away from Payson's traffic to Deer Creek, just below Rye.

For Anderson, life is simple: eating good meat, speeding in his white turbo PT Cruiser and dancing every Friday at the Rye Bar.

"He's always been a character," Betty said.

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