Aging Well: Resident celebrates nearly 100 years in Routt County

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Tamera Manzanares/Courtesy

Lucille Sundberg, center, visits with her son, John Sundberg, and daughter-in-law, Beth Sundberg, at the Doak Walker Care Center recently. Lucille, who spent most of her life in Hayden, celebrated her 100th birthday Sept. 15.

In this time of growth and change, residents may have different ideas about what it means to be a local.

It's probably safe to say, however, that anyone who first arrived in the Yampa Valley in a horse-drawn buggy has more than earned local status.

Lucille Sundberg, who celebrated her 100th birthday Sept. 15, is one such resident.

Lucille Stratton was less than 2 years old when she left Trinidad, Colo., with her family, bound for the northwest corner of the state. Her father was making good on his goal to return to the beautiful valley he once drove cattle through in the late 1800s.

Lucille, amazingly, spent the long and arduous trip balanced on the knee of her mother, who also was driving the buggy. Her father drove a team and wagon filled with the family's belongings, and her older brother and sister rode horseback, keeping track of the dairy cow and horses accompanying the family to their new life.

The Stratton family settled just north of Hayden, where they raised cattle and horses. For Lucille, those early years set the stage for a lifetime of wholesome living grounded in homegrown and homemade foods, horseback rides and fresh air, home crafts and education.

All the while, Lucille never thought about the possibility of living to be 100. In fact, she never thought much about aging.

"I never thought about it, it just happened," Lucille said recently at the Doak Walker Care Center, where she now lives.

Among Lucille's favorite memories are some of when she was a young girl in Hayden. It was then that she saw the first Routt County Fair, where she would later win horse races.

She and her sister also rode horses into town to see the first train, which came to a stop at the end of an unfinished track in Hayden. It was a momentous occasion for the townsfolk, who gathered around the engine, and then quickly skedaddled when the conductor jokingly announced he was going to turn the train around, Lucille said.

It was only in her youth that life seemed to move at a snail's pace.

"The years go so slow when you're young because you're anxious to do so many things," Lucille said.

Education was important to the Stratton family. Lucille and her brother and sister logged thousands of miles on their horses, riding the four-mile, one-way trip to and from school through the 12th grade. Lucille graduated in 1925 and was part of the first class to go all the way through the then-new Hayden Union High School.

After graduation, Lucille took extension courses to earn her teaching certificate and went on to teach school in rural parts of Moffat and Weld counties and other areas. She married Linde Sundberg, now deceased, in 1929 and lived briefly in Utah before returning to Hayden. There, the couple raised three sons and a daughter and also ran Linde's Service Station and Garage for 40 years.

A Swedish immigrant, Linde didn't learn English until he was 16 years old and revered education as much as Lucille.

"That's the thing I'm most proud of. : All four of our children went to college," Lucille said.

Other than bouts with chickenpox and the measles, Lucille was always healthy. It wasn't until she fell and injured herself in her early 90s that she began to feel old.

Old age "just got here so quickly," she said.

Lucille's propensity for good health may be attributed at least in part to good genes: Her brother Hilton is 103 and living well in Boulder. Hearty, nutritious foods and years of riding horses (she rode well into her 50s), also didn't hurt, she said.

Lucille learned healthy eating from her mother, who was very particular about her children's diets, insisting they eat oatmeal - Lucille still eats oatmeal every day for breakfast - venison, fresh vegetables and other good foods.

As a mother, Lucille often could be found tending her vegetable garden, canning, baking apple pies with homegrown apples or making one of her famous angel food cakes.

"She could never tell anyone how she made them because she never measured anything," her daughter-in-law Beth Sundberg said.

Lucille also was active in the Hayden Congregational Church for many years and was an avid quilter, a craft she learned from her mother.

These days, Lucille spends most of her time at the Doak Walker Care Center, where staff can keep a watchful eye on her to prevent more falls. She enjoys visits from her family - she has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren - and occasionally makes it back to Hayden to visit longtime friends.

"I'm really homesick for Hayden," she said.

Tamera Manzanares can be reached at tammarie74@yahoo.com.

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