Centenarians to ride in Ogden Parade, offer secrets to long life

Tuesday , July 22, 2014 - 12:00 AM

HOOPER – Ask 100-year-old Lorell Widdison the secret to living a long life and she’ll tell you obedience.

“When people learn to be obedient, they are happier,” she said. “Follow the rules, do what is right, be obedient. That is something a lot of children don’t know how to do today. When we were young, you respected your elders didn’t you?”

Widdison also listed hard work and eating right as secrets to longevity.

Widdison is one of local five centenarians who have shown interest in participating Thursday in the Ogden Pioneer Days Parade. Other possible parade participants are Walter Bailey, 101; Gaitha Butterfield, 102; Eunice Johnson, 101, and Velma Saunders, 104.

Of concern to all of them has been the likely temperature Thursday, report parade organizers. But honoring them, nonetheless, has been important to the parade committee.

“I think it is wonderful to recognize these wonderful centenarians that have contribute so much to Weber County,” said Skip Reese, a member of the parade committee who researched the area’s centurions and met with them where possible. “They deserved to be recognized.”

Widdison still is able to live on her own. She still cooks many meals and looks after many of her own needs.

Widdison said she starts each day by riding a stationary bicycle.

“You have to move around and keep going,” she said.

The 100-year-old said she got a good start at good health by walking nearly everywhere she went as a young person. Growing up in Ogden, she said she walked at least a mile and a half to school in elementary but that distance lengthened to more than a couple of miles as she got older.

“When I was younger, I lived on a small farm on 34th Street and Van Buren,” she said. “We raised three and a half acres of grapes, two acres of garden and a half acre of cucumbers.”

Widdison’s husband, Howard, was a dairy farmer. Her days were spent in much service helping with the farm and garden. She also worked as a seamstress before marrying and after her children were raised and as a substitute teacher for her daughter Ann Christopherson, who taught school for 25 years.

Also expected to ride in the parade is Gaitha Woolsey Butterfield, who is 102.

Woolsey said she attributes her long life to working hard, a good attitude and being happy with what God has given.

Butterfield was born on March 21, 1912 to Joseph and Wilhelmina Lay Woolsey.

Butterfield lost her mother and baby sister in childbirth when she was 13 and after a few health issues she and her husband Henry Drew Butterfield moved to Ogden where they believed their children had a chance at a better life.

The couple raised a total of five sons, two of their own and two of her brother’s after he died.

Henry Butterfield was a member of the military and he died at age 69.

Her employment has included work as a waitress, in home daycare, at the Deseret Industries and in the foster grandparent program.

She retired at age 100 and still hasn’t quit.

During canning season, she helps her daughter-in-law as she gets foods ready to bottle.

She loves flowers and helps water them in the summer.

Widdison shows a particular interest in her family.

“I am proud of all of them as you can see from my walls,” she said, pointing to a mural of pictures that cover one wall completely.

She has seven children, 42 grandchildren, 106 great grandchildren and 32 great-great grandchildren.

In a write-up by family members, they said she knows each of her posterity by name, who they belong to and makes each of them feel important and loved.

Many of those family members attended a birthday party for Widdison this past spring when she turned 100 on March 12.

They took many pictures and presented her with a history of her life, a book with pictures of her and her many family members and an outline of her many accomplishments that no-doubt was reproduced to allow many families to own a copy.

The book is titled “Lorell Alison Hobbs Widdison: 100 Years of Quiet Service.”

Thursday’s parade won’t be the first time Widdison has made her way down the downtown Ogden thoroughfare.

In 1934, she modeled a “lovely” red dress on a float for Intermountain Knitting Mills where she was employed for $.18 an hour. She still laughs about the whistling and singing of “The Lady in Red” she got from men watching the parade, especially as the parade reached 25th Street and Washington Boulevard.

She also rode a horse in the parade in 1937.

“I’ll be fine if I have some shade,” Widdison said of Thursday’s parade.

When looking back at her life’s accomplishments, Widdison also is proud of her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she served with her husband at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

An active member of the LDS Church, Widdison still enjoys singing in the ward choir.

She recently shared her stories and memories of her 100 years at the Hooper Woman’s Club where family members reported all were amazed at her memories and her ability to express them.

You may reach JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at JaNaeFrancisSE. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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