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To the fullest

By Staff | Apr 14, 2008

“I refuse to die. I also joke a lot — and a smile helps. Also, you can’t overlook good genes. If you want to live a long time, the first thing you should do is go out and pick your parents.” -Ike Enderson

Blue Earth’s Ike Enderson considers himself lucky. He has his own teeth, his own hair and a driver’s license without restrictions. (While he doesn’t mention his sense of humor, it’s quite obvious that’s also top notch.)

Not bad for a man 102 years old.

Speak to Ike for even a short time and you can begin to understand how the centenarian stays young — he enjoys life.

Ike also says it helps that he simply ‘refuses to die.’

According to him, there’s no big secret to living past 100. It’s all in how you look at things.

“I never quit living,” says Ike. “I live by the idea that ‘Today I am alive and happy… Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

But that’s not to say that life has always been easy for Ike. He’s lived through six wars, the Great Depression, the deaths of numerous family members and of his beloved wife, Hazel. But there have also been good times, like how he met his wife while selling knives door to door and the births of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — and those are the times he chooses to focus on.

Born in Hamilton County, Iowa on April 10, 1906, Ike started life on his family farm, attending country school (which he walked two miles to and from each day) and completing chores (included carrying wood and water to the house and picking eggs). With no radio and no telephone, news was gathered from the local paper or by word of mouth. His family — all 13 of them — prepared for winters by canning in the summer, storing carrots in sand crocks and potatoes in the cellar, and by purchasing 50 sacks of flour on rare trips to town.

The second to the youngest, Ike was 12 when his family moved to Story City, Iowa.

He met his wife while trying to raise money for college. It was the beginning of the Dirty 30’s and Ike was going door to door selling bread knives in a nearby town. At school, Ike was focusing his attention on getting a medical degree at St. Olaf College — until his sophomore year, when he lost his father, sister, nephew and niece within two weeks. His father died from complications after surgery; his sister, niece and nephew contracted diphtheria from a contaminated water source.

Ike was out of school for two weeks. Because he was financing his own eduction, he had to re-focus his goals once back. Deciding against retaking classes he had missed, Ike began working toward a teaching certificate. He continued financing his education “anyway he could,” including waiting tables at a boarding club.

He received his ‘sheep skin’ (seriously, back then diplomas were printed on an actual sheep skin), took a job with Gambles-Skogmo, Inc. in Minneapolis, and married Hazel.

Ike considered himself very lucky. Not only did he have a wife he loved, he had a job in the middle of the Great Depression.

“It was tough times,” he remembers. “I was tickled to have a job. I knew college professors who were selling apples on the corner just to make a living.”

During the 30’s, Ike and Hazel added Barbara, now 70, Karen, 69, and Kathy, 62, to their family.

In the 40s, Ike and Hazel lived on a farm near Webster City, Iowa, before moving to town. Ike was still working in the appliance business and purchased his family its first deep freeze. The Enderson family was actually one of the first families to own the new gadget.

By the 1950s, Ike decided to open his own business. He found the perfect opportunity in Blue Earth, beginning a plumbing and heating store with his brother-in-law.

After selling the store and semi-retiring in 1970, Ike continued to work out of his home for the next 40 years.

In the 1990s, Ike finally retired and he and Hazel spent their time travelling between Blue Earth in the summer and Arizona in the winter. That all changed, however, when Hazel passed away. Ike sold their home in Arizona and took up full-time residence in Blue Earth.

Today, he spends much of his time with friends and playing cards at the Blue Earth Senior Center.

Ike has outlived many in his life, including all of his siblings. But he has also seen the birth of his six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

He has also seen dramatic changes in our society.

The good, he says, is the nutritional food that has helped people live longer, healthier lives.

The worst is the crime and mistrust.

“There was a time when a handshake was as good as a signature,” says Ike. “As people get smarter in good ways, they get smarter in bad ways too. I believe in God eternal, but why is it that every so often someone is born with an imperfection… I can’t wrap my head around it. God created man imperfect.”

All in all, Ike says his life has definitely been filled with more good than bad.

“It’s been a wonderful life,” he adds. “My greatest inheritance have been my children.”