Centenarians are becoming a tad more common as medical science continues to improve our shot at longevity, but even so, 106 is an august age.
That's how many years Florence Taggart, who now lives in Hutchinson, Kan., can claim. In June, the other three generations of women in her family traveled with the newest generation, baby Ella Martin, to visit the matriarch of their clan.
Three generations live in Durango - Deb Kimmel, Taggart's granddaughter, Aubrey (Kimmel) Martin, Taggart's great-granddaughter, and little Ella, Taggart's great-great-granddaughter. Kimmel's mother, Nancy (Taggart) Simpson, calls the Mile High City home.
They all are either the oldest or only females in their respective generations.
Kimmel remembers visiting Topeka, Kan., where her grandparents lived for most of their lives. She was struck by how Taggart was always the most gracious hostess.
"Even if she was serving peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, the jelly would be in a little crystal bowl and the bread on a beautiful plate," Kimmel said.
Taggart has lived an interesting life. She entered the University of Denver in 1922 and graduated four years later with double majors in English and psychology and a minor in religion from the Iliff School of Theology. She was a teacher in her younger years.
Taggart has many memories of the times she has seen, from the first flight of an airplane to man walking on the moon. During the same time, careers for women have exploded, so the next foot to step on the moon might well be female.
Women's garb has changed from long skirts to flappers to mini-dresses - and back again. The biggest change for Taggart was the demise of hats and gloves as de rigueur fashion accessories for ladies. When she was growing up, and for many of the years of her adulthood, she would never go shopping wearing a suit or dress without those accessories - winter or summer. The abandonment of hats was shortly after World War II, she said, or maybe as late as the 1960s. She also remembers the first time she saw shorts - her husband's sister, who was about 18, had a pair on, and Taggart wrote in her 150-page handwritten autobiography, "I truly was shocked."
The centenarian also remembered going with her friends to the movies each week. They were silent films, of course, because talkies didn't arrive until the late 1920s, when she was already out of college and teaching. She loved the serial films, with new episodes every week. After the cliffhanger at the end of each installment, "We HAD to go next week," she wrote.
Kimmel said her grandmother has been a role model who always sees the bright side of things. Taggart said in her autobiography that it is for others to determine what her best contribution to the world has been.
"One thing I know; I have lived long enough to see three daughters with their children and grandchildren live lives of honesty, trustworthiness, love for one another and a fine spiritual background, unselfishness and fine morals. I have seen the love of true friends and a positive attitude of life. Hopefully, I have touched someone to carry on with a smile. I am truly blessed."
That's the kind of attitude that makes 106 years worth living.
Enjoying more La Plata County Fair events for their birthdays are Suzanne Upshaw, Sonja Fleming, Michael Rohren, Van Butler, Scott McClellan, Karen Anderson, Kent Herath, Jennifer Rudolph, Jeri Trausch, Ed Dudley, Tom Higgins, Will Downs, John Walters, Guy Tomberlin, Marina Hays, Jessica Martin, Corbin Miller, Anna McBrayer, Heath Kleindienst, Roy Gust, Scott Dold, Emily Robertson, John White, Roy Cook, Edna Graves, Dave Huckins, Peri Ann Milner, Leigh Melville, Ron Ollier and Don Ollier.
One would think I am the one who's 103! I completely forgot to mention happy birthday to Sarah Folsom, who blew out that many candles Friday.
Her granddaughter Cindy Cortese planned a Hollywood-themed party, with a red carpet for the star of the hour, production clapboard (Take 103?) and more stars everywhere. At least 16 of Cortese's friends joined her and Folsom for the party, which included a cake with a film strip that lauded Folsom's 103rd.
Durangoan Janice Martin made a marquee for the star of stage and screen, and Cortese's tap-dancing class prepared a number just for the centenarian.
Many happy returns of the day, Gram.
The first two items have put me in a positively perky frame of mind. Nothing new for your Neighbors columnist, you might say.
But in about 10 days, Durango is going to be positively swamped with people in a good mood, so I will not be alone in seeing the glass half full.
Up with People is coming to town for two performances and a lot of hours toward some of our local good causes. Phil Worcester, who is part of the advance team, tells me 85 young people ages 18 to 29 from 20 countries will be in town from Aug. 17 to 22.
I haven't been to an Up with People performance for more than 10 years, but I have been to several, and I remember always walking out tapping a toe, humming a tune and feeling a little better about the world's future. This cast will be putting on its show full of song and dance with a global touch at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 and 21 at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
But before they take to the stage, the young people will be taking to the trails - literally. As one of their service projects, they'll be working with Trails 2000 on trails maintenance. Some cast members will volunteer at the Manna Soup Kitchen, and others will visit the Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County.
While it's here, the group will need housing. Hosts are asked to provide local transportation at the beginning and end of each day, as well as breakfast each day and most dinners. So that would be five nights of hospitality and a way to make a good impression for the United States on a young person or two.
It's a great way to meet someone interesting and new who may hail from any part of the world. Show them some of Southwest Colorado and learn about their family and hometown.
If you're interested in becoming a host family, e-mail Mark Whitaker at firstname.lastname@example.org or Worcester at email@example.com or call Worcester at (520) 404-2225.
Several Durangoans have a connection to the organization that's all about celebrating global cooperation and good will. Laurel Waller, Brittany Schield, Brett Sherman and Jim Turner are just a few locals who have traveled with the cast. Barney and Phyllis Anderson worked with the World Smart educational staff with Up with People! In fact, Worcester tells me there are about 20 people in our area who have traveled and learned with the organization in a way they will never forget.
By the end of this cast's five-month world tour, they will have visited the southwestern U.S., Mexico, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Finland and Belgium. The firefighting crews who helped extinguish the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires in 2002 told me we were the friendliest town they'd ever been stationed in. Let's send the Up with People cast away with the same impression.
Getting lots of much needed moisture for their anniversaries are Craig and Charlotte Wright, David and Susan Kolb, Don and Shirley Spangsberg, Randy and Rhonda Glenn, Darrell and Nancy Lucht, Richard and Diane Pratt, Bill and Linda Russell, Ted and Nancy Carr, Doug and Priscilla Shand, and Jim and Marge Murphy.
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
How to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; fax 259-5011; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk.