Perhaps it’s the Water? Folks Live Long Lives Here

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Wyoming’s oldest person is Leonard Ross of Jackson at 107. He attained that singular honor when a hero of mine, Leola Maude Dollard Reschke of Lander died last November at the age of 108.

Lloyd Baker, 105, of Etna and Betty Schelliner, 105, of Douglas, round out the list of the oldest residents currently living in Wyoming.

While doing research for this column, I also identified Dottie Turney who died at 107 in 2014, where she used to be the oldest person in the state. She always was proud that she was two years older than her hometown of Powell.

Another old-timer, Mrs. Hester Smith, passed away last year in Lusk at the age of 107.

All of these folks were amazingly active into their very high years of age.

For a long time, Leola Reschke was on my list of Wyoming’s most interesting people. But I never got the chance to tell her that in person. And now, she is gone.

To describe her as active in her old age would be a big disservice. For her 105th birthday, she went horseback riding. For her 108th, she visited Yellowstone National Park. While there she went riding in a 1928 restored car.

Leola was born in Lander in July 1908, her maiden name was Dollard, a common name around Fremont County. She had two husbands and three children, all of whom are no longer living.

Leola lived in a nursing home in recent years and that is where, for comparison’s sake, Jackson’s Ross sets a very high bar. He still lives alone in his hand-built cabin up Pacific Creek Road outside of Jackson.

He is very bright and tells vivid stories describing his early days in Jackson Hole. He was quite a marksman in his day and his cabin walls are lined with animal heads.

According to a story in the Jackson News & Guide: “He’s just amazing,” neighbor Beverly Babcock said. “He may live to be 110.” The story in the Jackson newspaper continues:

“He’s pretty satisfied with 107. Most of his days are spent tucked inside his warm cabin, watching wildlife walk past or napping in his chair. Friends often stop by to check on him, bringing by plates of food. When he goes to town for a bite to eat, the waitresses at Bubba’s always have a Pepsi ready for him — something he swears he never drinks otherwise.

“ ‘He is always in a good mood. He never complains,’ his friend Roland Fleck said. ‘And he’s always been that way.’ ”

During a recent birthday celebration, he went to town and got a haircut. “They have been giving me free haircuts here since I turned 100,” he told reporter Melissa Cussutt.

It does appear that he is now the state’s oldest citizen.

Dottie Turney of Powell always lived at home until she fell off a ladder while washing windows at the age of 100. Her mind was bright and active up to the end when she died in June 2014, at the age of 107.

Powell Tribune writer Tessa Baker did a story about Dottie, which included: “She brought a lot of joy to others,” said Penny Blake, her granddaughter, adding Mrs. Turney was always happy to see visitors. “She attributes her longevity to hard work. She never smoked or drank alcohol.”

Baker of Star Valley still goes to work at his engineering firm. “Don’t call me Mr. Baker, that was my dad,” he told the local Star Valley Independent reporter. “Call me Lloyd.” He was famous for always carrying peanut M&Ms around in his pockets, according to the article by Julie Dockstader Heaps. Hard work runs in

The late Mrs. Hester Smith (age 107) offered this advice, according to an article in the Lusk Herald by Lori Himes: "Everybody should have to do a little hard work so they understand the value of money. A little hard work never hurt anybody." When asked what she owed her longevity to, she replied, “I just lived a clean life. I never drank or smoked. I worked hard all my life. Everybody always asks about what I eat and I tell them homemade white bread, any kind of potatoes and chocolate ice cream."

During my research for this column, I ran across many others over the age of 100, but these six stood out.

What is most impressive is how lively they all are or were deep into old age. Perhaps it really is the water.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books, which are available at fine stores. His latest is Wyoming at 125. His books are also available at wyomingwonders.com.