DES MOINES — Work hard, have a strong faith, eat food that grows on plants, get along with people and refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol and “carousing.”
Those were among the secrets to longevity offered by 26 Iowa centenarians who were honored at a luncheon at the State Historical Building on Monday.
The 2010 U.S. Census reported that Iowa has 793 residents aged 100 or older — including Dina Manfredini, a 114-year-old Johnston woman who state Department on Aging officials say is inching close to being the oldest living person in the world.
On Monday, Gov. Terry Branstad fulfilled a campaign promise when his administration reinstituted a tradition of honoring the state’s oldest residents — an event held for the first time in at least three years that drew a crowd of 170 people.
“I’ve always thought this was a real highlight. I think we need to honor and recognize and respect these people,” Branstad said. “I think it’s the biggest number we’ve ever had at one of these. It was great.”
Addie Christy, 100, of Bloomfield, noted that her grandfather fought in the Civil War and she still has the rifle he used when he marched with Union Army Gen. William Sherman.
Kenneth Gordon, 100, of Webster City, who quit driving about a year ago, recalled being held up as a small child to pull the cord to light the first electric bulb in his family’s home. He attributed his longevity to the fact that “the Lord just keeps my heart a-goin.’ ”
Casper Torkelson, 100, of Huxley, showed a grand champion ram in 1936 and the oldest bowler in Ames until had to give up the hobby not so long ago.
Finland native Elly New, 100, now of Des Moines, recalled being in a World War II bomb shelter before taking refuse in Sweden and then coming to the United States.
Darrel Guthrie, 100, of Cedar Falls, said he still takes rides on the back of his son’s motorcycle. He advised others to “marry a good wife,” stay flexible, have a good sense of humor, and keep a positive attitude as ways to live to be 100.
Mildred Brendeland, 101, of Huxley, also recommended “living a good, clean life” that included living according to your means and not your wants.
According to Machelle Shaffer of the Iowa Department on Aging there are 580 Iowans aged 100 years or older who are listed on the department’s centenarian registry — 85 percent are women and 15 percent are men. There are three people who have reached or surpassed the age of 110 and 78 Iowans who are aged 105 or older.