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108 year old Helena Self

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September 5, 2017

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist,


Missoula’s 108-year-old Helen Self one of several western Montana Centenarians to be honored

Noon luncheons in Kalispell, Glendive will take place in September


Missoula’s Helen Self celebrated her 100th birthday with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle ride. At age 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 just simply celebrate her recent 108th birthday on Aug. 17, 2017 with little fanfare.

As part of her post-birthday celebration, she 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 on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. The event is sponsored by the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

Lt. Governor 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.”

Governor Steve Bullock plans to attend a second Centenarian luncheon Sept. 12 in Glendive, where another four eastern Montana Centenarians will be honored. These are Montanans who will turn age 100 or older as of December 31, 2017.           

Amazingly, Self is still able to live 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 it was Self who 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, has lunch often throughout the week 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, age 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, age 100, Troy. She states when she was younger she walked where ever she needed to go, including daily walks to the post office and grocery store. Although she had a drivers license, she never wanted to drive. One of Betty’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 Betty is always looking forward to ‘her ship coming in’.

Stella Rose Holyk, age 100, Hot Springs. Her favorite memory is that of her great grandson winning at the state wrestling tournament. She states: ‘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, age 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, age 101, Kalispell
  • Edna Mabel Seville Ridenour, age 101, West Glacier
  • Lily Ryan, age 101, Missoula
  • Kenneth Soward, age 101, Kalispell
  • Lucille Deborah Wilson, age 105, Kalispell
  • Edith Atkinson Wylie, age 105, Bigfork

DPHHS recently asked Montanans to submit the names of Centenarians, and that list is at 119 names and growing. The current DPHHS Centenarian list of those who are currently age 100 or older is as follows:

  • (2) are age 108
  • (2) are age 107
  • (3) are age 106 
  • (8) are age 105 
  • (7) are age 104
  • (12) are age 103 
  • (24) are age 102
  • (25) are age 101
  • (36) are age 100 

This year’s Conference on Aging is designed to raise the public’s awareness of the state’s current senior population, as well as focus attention on the impact of the baby boomer generation which started turning 65 in 2011. The conference theme this year is: “Age Out Loud”.  The conference is being held in two locations this year in order to increase access.

Montana’s 2010 census showed that Montana is home to 175 centenarians and that it is one of the fastest growing segments of our aging population. According to DPHHS officials, Montana has one of the fastest growing 65 and older populations in the nation. In Montana, 1,065 people turn 65 every month or 12,775 people per year. And, this trend will continue for the next 16 years.

Centenarians in the western part of the state are encouraged to attend the Kalispell luncheon and those from central and eastern Montana are invited to attend the Glendive luncheon.

This year’s conferences will cover a variety of topics including family caregiving; new information on understanding abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly; Alzheimer’s, renter’s rights, preventing falls, and more.

Additional conference information can be found at http://dphhs.mt.gov/SLTC/aging/GovernorsConferenceonAging.aspx