Ike was really pretty easy to like
I like Ike.
I don’t mean the 34th president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, who’s nickname was Ike and who’s election slogan was “I Like Ike.”
Although, I do admit I like that Ike as well.
He is the first president I have memory of. As a kid I remember marching a block from my school in La Mesa, Calif., to wave little U.S. flags as President Eisenhower rode by in a black Cadillac convertible and waved back to us.
He remains the only president I have ever seen live and in person.
That fact would have changed if McGovern, McCarthy, Humphrey or Mondale would have ever been elected.
But, I digress.
The Ike I am referring to is Blue Earth’s Ike Enderson, who passed away this week at the age of 106.
He was born in April of 1906, so he was coming up on turning 107 years old.
I liked Ike.
I still remember the first day that I met him.
It was after church service and during ‘coffee hour’ at Trinity Lutheran Church.
One of the people I was sitting with told me the man on the other side of the room was 102 years old and that I should do a story about him.
I looked over where they were pointing and couldn’t see anyone who appeared to be 102.
“Which one is he?” I had to ask.
They pointed out Ike.
“That guy is 102?”
So I walked over, sat down, introduced myself and visited with him for a while.
He was astonishing. And I did do a story about him. A couple of times.
At that time he was still getting around well, living in his own place, driving his car wherever he wanted to.
At age 102.
The most astonishing fact; he had a girl friend. She was much younger than he was. Only in her 80s.
Ike continued on his own, but eventually his age crept up on him.
First to go were his knees. He was pretty upset about it. He told me that if he knew he was going to live this long, he would have taken better care of himself.
Huh? What was he talking about? He was in great shape for his age.
Heck, he was in great shape for someone my age.
But, with his knees not working too well, his driving days were coming to an end.
Then, he had to get a walker. He was upset about that as well. Until he decided to buy a top of the line walker. He showed it to me with a bit of pride one day at the Senior Citizens Center. It was pretty fancy.
Finally, Ike had to go to St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center. He wasn’t happy about it, but going there at the same time that his good friend, Elmer Knudsen was living there made it OK.
So did his new powered wheel chair, which he used to zoom through the halls at St. Luke’s, buzzing other residents, visitors and staff alike.
Eventually I did another story on Ike. When I told him I wanted to interview him, his response was, “Am I still news?”
When I said yes, he asked if it was just because he was old. I tried to explain that it was not just because he was old, it was because he was old and yet still “with it.”
We visited about the many things he had seen in his lifetime. In 100-plus years he had seen many wars, lots of presidents (including Ike Eisenhower) and most of the important events of the 20th Century.
Things from the invention of television, computers and space travel to the changes in how people live.
But he didn’t have a lot of interest in talking about national events. He liked to visit about the good old days of living in a small town.
Ike was a nice guy. He didn’t think he was anything special, didn’t think he did anything extraordinary; that he just was a plain, ordinary man.
An ordinary man who had a nice, extremely long life.
In the words of President Eisenhower’s re-election slogan, I still like Ike.