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Post a 1905 Coin in Honor of Iris who died at 115!

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edited January 29, 2021 3:35PM in U.S. Coin Forum

From the WSJ - (note, not a political post)


At Age 115, She Was Content to Look Out Her Window

Iris Westman of North Dakota, who died Jan. 3, had more to say about Warren G. Harding than about Donald Trump

In an age when people are bombarded almost constantly with disturbing news and commentary, Iris Westman had no access to social media and rarely watched television.

That may be one reason she lived with remarkable serenity to the age of 115.

Ms. Westman died of natural causes, unrelated to Covid-19, on Jan. 3 at a nursing home in Northwood, N.D. She was listed by the Gerontology Research Group as the second-oldest living American, behind Hester Ford of North Carolina, who is believed to be either 115 or 116.

In an interview five years ago, Ms. Westman was asked for her impression of Donald Trump, then campaigning for president. “I’ve heard of him,” she said. “Not enough to express an opinion.”

She had more to say about Warren G. Harding, who served as president from 1921 until his death in 1923. Mr. Harding may not have been a great president, she said, but she remembered having a soft spot for him. “He was awfully good looking,” she said.

She could no longer see well enough to read easily but enjoyed listening to audio books. History and travel were preferred themes.

Her nursing home offered daily gatherings for cards, bingo or other amusements. Though she sometimes took part in those activities, she said, “I don’t need to have lots of things going on. I can be quite content sitting here and looking out the window and not seeing anything.” Outside, the countryside was flat and drifted with snow.

During the interview, she sat upright and poised in a plush easy chair. Her hair was stylishly waved. She wore a knit top with a geometrical pattern over wine-colored slacks. Near her chair was a folder containing a letter the White House sent her in 2015 to congratulate her on her 110th birthday.

She shrugged off questions about her longevity. “You just sit back and it happens,” she said. “The Lord takes care of it, and He knows what He’s doing, so we should just sit back and let Him do it.”

Ms. Westman “never wanted to be known for being old,” said Katie Pinke, whose great grandfather was one of Ms. Westman’s brothers. “That wasn’t something that she found particularly newsworthy.”

Born on Aug. 28, 1905, she grew up on a farm near Aneta, N.D., with her parents and three brothers. Her parents, of Norwegian descent, encouraged their children to read at an early age. When she got to first grade she was shocked to find some of her fellow students hadn’t begun reading. “I thought, For pity’s sakes,” she recalled.

The family had a Ford car but needed horse-drawn sleds to get around in the winter because roads were often impassable. She remembered the pleasing scent of candles burning on the Christmas tree during a brief home service. One of her brothers stood by with a pail of water in case of fire. Presents were few: “We’d get one fun gift, like a toy, and otherwise we’d get something new to wear.”

After graduating from the University of North Dakota in 1928, she taught English at several schools in North Dakota and Minnesota. Later she studied library science and became the librarian at an elementary school, until retiring in 1972. She preferred working with younger children. “Teenagers were getting to be a little difficult to deal with, and I didn’t want to fight them, so I stayed with the elementary school,” she said. “Which means I’m a coward.”

She never married. Did she come close? “Well, a couple of times, but I think it was very well that I didn’t.”

She fondly remembered a kitten once given to her by a neighbor. It was so scruffy and unsightly at first sight that she mockingly named it Aphrodite, after the Greek goddess, only to realize later it was a male cat. “He was a very smart cat,” she said.

Other favorite memories included travels to the East Coast, a cruise through the Great Lakes, and tours of Scandinavia and Western Europe.

As for politics, she was willing to assume almost any crisis could be survived. When Franklin Roosevelt died, she said, “I thought, ‘Oh, what’s going to happen to the country?’ I figured what did Truman know? But he stepped up and was very good.”

Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected]

"Got a flaming heart, can't get my fill"


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