As the University of Montana School of Journalism celebrates its 100th year, Jeremy Lurgio’s Advanced Multimedia class set out to tell the stories of Montanans who’ve been around just as long. A 2010 U.S. Census Report showed there were 53,364 centenarians in the nation, 175 of those were living in Montana. Students traveled across the state to meet and photograph 12 of them....
Join us January 9, 2015
for The University of Montana, School of Journalism's
Jeremy Lurgio's Advanced Multimedia class will honor 12 of
Montana's centenarians through photography.
11 a.m. at the Capitol Rotunda in Helena, Montana
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at seven o’clock in the morning you will find Barney Myers making his way around the YMCA in Billings, Montana. At this hour, Barney goes through his daily workout routine of bench press, push-ups and several other exercises.
“I think that is one of the main reasons I have survived so well,” Barney said. “I’m not sure it has extended my life, but it has made it a lot more bearable.”
As if his workouts aren’t enough, the former Billings Senior High School math teacher continues to do calculus in his spare time as well as drive to meet his friends for coffee at the IGA every Thursday morning. “When you get older, live each day like it’s your last, someday you’ll hit it right,”
Emma Lommasson was born in Sand Coulee, Montana. Her parents were Italian immigrants, and she didn't learn to speak English until she was 6 years old. In 1929, she was the first woman from Sand Coulee to attend college at the University of Montana. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1933 and her master’s degree in mathematics in 1939. During her 40-year career at the University of Montana she served as a mathematics instructor, veteran’s advisor, Air Force ROTC Angel Flight advisor, Associate Director for Admissions and Records, and Registrar. She helped countless students with enrollment and guidance. Emma retired in 1979, but continued to volunteer at the Registrar’s Office for 10 more years.
In 2004, the university named the Emma B. Lommasson Center after her. On her birthday each year Lommasson eats at the Food Zoo in the Emma B. Lommasson Center, the building the university named in her honor.
"I enjoyed every bit of it and naturally I enjoyed my work very much at the university and that’s what kept me here,” Lommasson said. “And nobody can take me away from here."
As the University of Montana School of Journalism celebrates its 100th year, Jeremy Lurgio’s Advanced Multimedia class set
out to tell the stories of Montanans who’ve been around just as long. A 2010 U.S. Census Report showed there were 53,364
centenarians in the nation, 175 of those were living in Montana. Students traveled across the state to meet and photograph 12
The centenarians shared with students stories about things both they and the School of Journalism have experienced over the past century, including two world wars, the Great Depression and numerous changes in society. They offered advice like, “Live each day like it’s your last. One day you’ll hit it right.” And “Don’t love your neighbor’s wife, stick with your own.”
The intimate photos taken by each student show lines, wrinkles and years of wisdom. One shows a woman with her BINGO board, another shows a man playing a harmonica on a bench near his family’s ranch. Each photo demonstrates the uniqueness of each centenarian as well as the connection they share. While each centenarian’s past, present and future vary, they all reached a feat most people never glimpse.
These photos and others are incorporated into short multimedia pieces that give a deeper look into each centenarian’s life. They offer moments for the viewer to reflect on how much this generation has experienced.
Ernest Hoffman moved to Montana when he was 6 months old. He grew up on his father’s farm in Belgrade, MT.
Ernest started working on automobiles when, “cars were just four wheels and a seat.” He retired from automobile work at 72-years-old, but continued to do private work on small engines for 25 years. He still spends three to four hours a day in his wood shop he built at his house in Belgrade. He mostly does woodwork now, but will occasionally work on a small engine for a friend.
Ernest is 10 years older than his wife, Doris who he married in 1946. Both are in good health. Ernest said he has no secret to his longevity other than “good clean living.”
Arvah Morton was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 29, 1912. She moved to Roy, Montana with her family when she was 3 years old. She worked for the Montana Department of Revenue for 14 years. She resides in Helena now.
Arvah has seen many changes in this world during her lifetime. The one that stands out to her the most is that people used to drive horse-drawn buggies to town and now everyone drives cars. Arvah enjoys spending time outside taking in the Montana scenery. One of her greatest joys in life was working in her large garden where she grew much of her own food. When she was younger she enjoyed travelling and visited places such as Guatemala, Alaska and Hawaii. She attributes her longevity to not smoking, eating lots of vegetables and fresh foods and spending time outside even in the winter.
Clarence Rostad pulls a harmonica out of his pocket and begins to play a familiar tune. The melody floats away from the weathered bench on which he sits, past the winding river to the yellow trees in the distance.
Clarence spent 60 years living and working on a ranch in Big Timber, Montana. He enjoyed playing the harmonica while herding cattle and sheep. Clarence is a simple man, who stresses hard work and loving your neighbor. He insists that he never taught his six kids anything, but rather, they learned from observing. Clarence now lives in a nursing home in Big Timber, but still enjoys making trips out to visit the old ranch with his family. Although his eyesight is gone, Clarence swears he can see the sunlight shimmering off the water when he sits on that old bench.
Maggie Pontius was born in 1914 in California and followed her daughter Luella Dixon to Bigfork in 1971. Maggie was instrumental in getting the senior center and public library started in Bigfork. In 1972, she established the local library by donating all the books she had collected while working for years as a library clerk in California. Maggie also helped get the senior center started in 1983 and was the social chairman and board president of the center. When the Kalispell Public Library system took over the Big Fork Library and moved it to downtown Bigfork, Maggie asked for her books back and moved them to the senior center in Big Fork. Maggie has participated in the Ferndale Sewing Circle for most of her time in Big Fork. The group was formed by six women in 1934.
Charlotte Niklas has spent all but six years of her life in Helena, Montana. She worked as a secretary for a few years but she devoted much of her life to her family. She has two sons, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Charlotte and her late husband, Tony, loved playing golf together. One of her most memorable golfing moments was hitting a hole-in-one while she was in her eighties.
Charlotte now lives in the Touchmark retirement home in Helena. She spends most of her days living a “very, very, very” routine life. However, she finds time every other week to get her hair done at the Touchmark salon. She loves seeing her many grandchildren and hanging up the pictures her great-grandchildren color for her.
Looking back on her life Charlotte doesn’t regret one bit of it.
“You know I wouldn’t change it one damn bit, no I wouldn’t,” Charlotte said. “I think I’m doing just what I’d like to do.”
The warm sun peaks through the window at Fountain View Care Center in Forsyth, Montana as Olive Campbell reaches for her bible. As she flips through the pages, she comes across her favorite verse: 1 Corinthians 13:13. “Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Olive attributes this verse to the way she lives her life; free from quarreling and full of love for everyone.
She grew up on a farm, and moved to a ranch in Hysham, Montana in 1930. There she lived with her husband, Orville, and four children. Campbell loves playing cards, and belonged to many different card groups with her husband and friends. She does not believe that there is any one secret to her longevity, but attributes it to moderation. “Moderation in all things is my creed motto,” says Campbell. “I just think that’s the better way to live. I use moderation in my food, thinking and the way I do things.”
Ruby Ketron was born September 24th, 1914 to Danish immigrants. Raised on a homestead in Plentywood, Montana Ruby remembers having her tonsils taken out on the kitchen table. Ruby raised two kids as a single mom. She worked selling women’s clothing in Billings. Ruby said the secret to longevity is to keep busy and always have something to do. She never learned to drive a car and loved walking. She said the biggest change she’s seen in society is how people treat each other. “Well, they’re not as friendly as they used to be,” Ruby said. “You don’t dare speak to a stranger you don’t know. It used to be that there was no such thing as a stranger.” Ruby now lives in an assisted living facility in Bozeman.
Imagine travelling 1,000 miles from Nebraska to Montana in a covered wagon. Elsie made this journey in the 1920s with her parents and her 13 brothers and sisters. She became a schoolteacher at a young age and later became a welder during World War II. Her favorite gift to receive is stamps because she still enjoys writing letters to her friends and family to keep them updated on her life. She also loves Elvis and Jesus. The best day of her life was when she met her husband; the worst was when he passed away. “He said, ‘I love you with all my heart and all my soul’. How could you beat that?” Elsie said.
Her eyes open slightly to see the rising sun and then she falls back into a light sleep in the Gallatin County Rest Home lobby before her morning coffee arrives. She is dressed with one of her prized hand-made beaded medallions. Nurses pass and other patients join her around the birdcage in the lobby. She wakes in time for breakfast, her favorite time of day.
Doris left her history in notebooks, where she recorded the daily temperature for years, and nearly every purchase she made. Record keeping and time were important to her. She always keeps her eye on the clock and you’ll never find her without her watch.
“Quite often, we really don’t have enough time,” she said. “Just keep enthusiastic about everything, knowing things, finding out things, knowing people. All of it, it’s just, it’s just life… And I’m going to keep it up as long as I can.”
Henry “Hank” Dahl was born on April 18, 1914 in Portland, Oregon. When he was a small child, Hank and his family drove from Portland to Helena, Montana, where he still resides today. Hank worked at an automotive dealership for 45 years, and then an additional 10 years at the Montana Department of Transportation. Hank built his home in Helena in 1949, the same year he married the love of his life, Byrdie Jane, or “B.J.” They were married for 65 years before she passed. Hank has always lived an active lifestyle and continues to play cards and socialize with his friends regularly. “I’m just lucky, I can’t believe that I’m 100 years old, but everybody says I am,” Hank said.