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Missoula’s Helen Self celebrated her 100th birthday with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle ride. At 106, she enjoyed floating the Clark Fork River. At age 107, she was regularly cooking elaborate meals for her family.

Self-admitted that since she’s starting to "slow" down, she was content to celebrate her 108th birthday on Thursday, Aug. 17, with little fanfare.

As part of her post-birthday celebration, Self plans to attend the 49th annual Governor’s Conference on Aging, where she and 10 other western Montana centenarians will be honored at a noon luncheon at the Kalispell Red Lion today. The event is sponsored by the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney is scheduled as the event’s featured speaker.

“Helen and all of Montana’s centenarians are truly inspiring individuals,” Cooney said. “They live life to the fullest, each and every day and have contributed so much to our state.”

Gov. Steve Bullock plans to attend a second centenarian luncheon on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Glendive, where four eastern Montana centenarians will be honored. These are Montanans who will turn age 100 or older as of Dec. 31, 2017.

Self still lives at home with her granddaughter, Diane Gunter, a licensed foster parent, and several children. Gunter is a small business owner, and has been a licensed foster parent since 1988. Self has lived with Gunter since 2001, and until last year Self handled a majority of the cooking for the household.

Self has taken great pride in helping Gunter provide a safe and loving home for so many children over the past several years.

“I really believe the fact she’s played a major role in helping me foster children is what has kept her going all these years,” Gunter said. “She’s wanted to do all she could to help these children, and help give them a good home.”

While she isn’t able to cook anymore, Self still keeps busy by beginning each day at about 10 a.m. with a cup of coffee, often has lunch with family and friends, and enjoys a weekly outing every Friday with her grandson to the bank, grocery story and a stop at Costco for a pizza slice. She also enjoys listening to Lawrence Welk music. She was able to drive well into her 90s.

When she was cooking, Self, who was born in Hamilton, was known for her famous chicken dinners, among other meals.

“She could just make up dishes that the kids just all raved about,” Gunter said. “She is just really talented at basic home-cooked meals, and they would always include all the major food groups.”


In addition, DPHHS recently asked Montana centenarians their secret to longevity, the most amazing event in their life, a favorite quote and various other insights into their lives.

Here are a few of the responses of those planning to attend the Kalispell luncheon:

Oscar Baertsch, 102, Polson: Baertsch states that his secret to longevity is "heredity." He said several Baertsch family members have lived to 90-plus years by being active, through hard work and "minding our own business." His favorite quote is "waste not, want not."

Betty J. Brown-Peterson, 100, Troy: She said when she was younger she walked wherever she needed to go, including daily walks to the post office and grocery store. Although she had a driver's license, she never wanted to drive. One of Brown-Peterson's favorite stories is about the time her husband piloted a small single engine plane taking her from Troy to North Dakota to see family. They landed in a wheat field and then hitched a ride into town. She adds "quite an experience for the early 1940s." Her favorite quote is that she is always looking forward to "her ship coming in."

Stella Rose Holyk, 100, Hot Springs. Her favorite memory is that of her great-grandson winning at the state wrestling tournament. She said: "He had me hang his medal around his neck on the podium. I was so proud — all the other boys asked their girlfriends to do this, but he asked me!" Her favorite quotes include, "Now don’t go borrowing trouble, tomorrow is another day," and, "It all will work out in the end."

Ruth Horn, 102, Kalispell: Horn loves to quilt which she has done for many years. She provides quilts to others in need and family just for fun, including hundreds of baby quilts. Her advice to others includes having a good attitude in life, keeping a good relationship with her friends, greeting everyone with a smile and loving them with a warm heart. Her favorite quote: "You can’t change the past, what is, is."

Other centenarians to be honored include:

• Carlton Nestegard, 101, Kalispell

• Edna Mabel Seville Ridenour, 101, West Glacier

• Lily Ryan, 101, Missoula

• Kenneth Soward, 101, Kalispell

• Lucille Deborah Wilson, 105, Kalispell

• Edith Atkinson Wylie, 105, Bigfork

Additional conference information can be found at

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