Date: September 20, 2019
ContactJon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757,  jebelt@mt.gov
                  Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367, hcouncil@mt.gov

Montana Centenarians to be honored in Billings

Francies Poulos of Billings says secret to longevity is ‘being so busy I forget to die’

Montana Centenarians will be honored Tuesday, September 24 at 4:45 p.m. in Billings at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center located at 1223 Mullowney Lane during a special banquet.

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan will serve as the event keynote speaker and will welcome the 19 Centenarians who are expected to attend.

“These are truly amazing individuals,” Hogan said. “I enjoy their outlook on life and appreciate their inspiring stories and thoughtful advice. This is an excellent opportunity to honor some incredible people.”

The banquet highlights the 51th annual Governor’s Conference on Aging. The Conference theme this year is ‘Rock Your Age: Still Cruisin’.

DPHHS recently asked Montanans to submit the names of Centenarians, and that list is 140 names and growing. These individuals will turn age 100 or older as of December 31, 2019.  

The current DPHHS list of those who are currently age 100 or older is as follows:

  • (2) are age 110 (Supercentenarians)
  • (7) are age 109
  • (3) are age 108
  • (2) is age 107 
  • (2) are age 106 
  • (5) are age 105
  • (9) are age 104
  • (14) are age 103
  • (27) are age 102
  • (33) are age 101
  • (36) are or will be 100 by December of this year.      

DPHHS also recently asked these individuals their secret to longevity, the most amazing event in their life, a favorite quote and various other insights into their lives. All those who submit their information will receive a recognition proclamation from Governor Steve Bullock.

Here are some of the responses:

Helen Self, age 110, Missoula. Self is actually considered a Supercentenarian since she has reached age 110, and according to DPHHS information is the current oldest living person in Montana. Her secret to longevity is: “I won’t give up, I can’t die yet; I still have work to do!” While Self is not a Veteran, she served her country through her work in the shipyards during WWII and served as the president of the American Legion Auxiliary in her 90s. She still enjoys getting out of the house. Her favorite places to go are the 4B’s Restaurant, the bank, having a cookie and coffee with her grandson on Fridays, the Dollar Store, and the Montana Club for a free birthday dinner. 

Catherine ‘Katie’ Billau, age 100, Bozeman. Billau said in her younger years she passed on a college scholarship in order to earn enough money to buy her single mother an electric refrigerator. Her secret to longevity is her fierce independence, staying mentally challenged and staying stylish. She still walks a mile a day and has “great genes.” Her favorite quote is “life is a journey, not a destination.”

Lavina Bonnie Grosshuesch, age 102, Billings. Grosshuesch attributes her longevity as heredity since one sister lived to be 101. In 1984, with 200 other veterans and their families, she and her husband traveled to the Philippines for a 40th military anniversary. Tragedy nearly struck when a fire erupted at the hotel where they stayed. Fortunately, her husband’s quick action proved lifesaving when he tied curtains together so they could lower themselves to safety. Her favorite quotes include “oh my land”, “fiddlesticks” and “my goodness”.

Margaret Look, age 103, Billings. Look attributes her longevity to “good food”. She has written three books and was also on the woman’s rowing team at Cornell University. Her favorite quote “isn’t it lovely”.

Nora Connolly Lukin, age 100, Browning. Lukin said her most amazing life events are that she survived the Great Depression and managed successful businesses. She still manages the land allotment she received as an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe. She has also visited 28 countries and felt her travel was a very valuable education. Her secret to longevity is keeping busy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Lydia Marie Schmidt Maier, 101 years old, Billings, MT. Maier was born in Watkins, MT in a homesteader’s sod house. Her mother died when she was just age 10 and Maier suddenly became cook and housekeeper for her father and three brothers. When she was 14, she met and fell in love with the man of her dreams who was 18 at the time. However, she says that he didn’t notice her for several more years. Maier has three children, eight grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild. She still lives on her own and cooks, cleans, does laundry and works in her garden.

Cecile Farris Magers, age 100, Billings. Magers thought about living this long includes one single word: “Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! There is a lot of pleasure in volunteering.” Her favorite quotes are “one has to live day-to-day the best you can” and “don’t be too judgmental.”

Bulah Manning, age 100, Laurel. Manning was born at home on Four Mile Road near Birney. Some of her most amazing life events include experiencing World War II and she believes she owes her longevity to the fact that she never smoked.

Bernard ‘Barney’ Meyers, age 109. Meyers taught math for 30 years in the Billings School District as well as coached football, basketball, track and cross country. He coached five state champion cross country teams. The most important part of his life is his family. He was married to his wife Bess for 63 years. He has three daughters, eight grandchildren, several great grandchildren, and two great great grandchildren. His favorite quote is “live each day like it’s your last one. Someday, you’ll get it right.” He attributes his longevity to “genes and exercise”, and the fact he “chose” the right grandparents.

Francies Poulos, 100 years old, Billings, MT. Poulos was born in a log cabin in McCone County. She lived in Atlanta, GA in the downtown area for a while and experienced a very diverse population of people. She would spend hours visiting them, and they would later surprise her with smalls gifts in return. She believes their kindness was due to her recognizing them by name and making them feel special. “It is important to say people’s names when we talk to them and let people know they are important and be kind.” Poulos explains her longevity is due to “being so busy I forget to die”.

This year’s Conference on Aging will be a continued celebration of Aging in Montana. The conference’s mission is to raise the public’s awareness of the state’s current senior population, as well as providing lifestyle choices and alternatives for the baby boomer generation which started turning 65 in 2011. The conference theme “Rock Your Age, Still Cruisin’” stresses that seniors play a key role in the vitality of our neighborhoods, network and lives. 

In honor of the conference, the theme and event topics will focus on encouraging and providing information to seniors and caregivers to Connect, Create and Contribute with focus on their community.

The conference includes numerous keynote addresses, breakout sessions and panel discussions that focus on meal preparation for seniors, health promotion, Alzheimer’s information, social security, financial advice, Medicare, and more.

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