I’ve just returned from the memorial service for my 105 year old step-dad, Ed Hillstead. That is correct – 105! He still lived at home – alone – and day-traded or watched the market most every day the stock market was open! He was an amazing man and brought us much joy after he came into our lives.
Ed was born in 1908 in Kansas; that year President Roosevelt established the “Country Life Commission” to find ways of improving the quality of life on the farm. That same year Ford first produced the Model T, which also helped to improve life in the country.
Ed’s parents were gentle people. His dad owned a hardware store at the intersection of the two main streets in Hoxie Kansas. The only whipping Ed ever remembered getting was because he peed outside his dad’s shop. He was just a young lad at the time.
His father allowed Ed to save whatever money he earned. From those early days of being rewarded by being able to keep the money he earned, Ed always looked for ways to make money. He had his own little vegetable garden and sold the produce. He had Bantam chickens, raised rabbits and squab pigeon, a Shoe Shine stand, an Orange Drink stand and later he had a newspaper route in Salina after his dad moved there.
Ed opened his own checking account at the bank when he was 10 years old. He used it to order stuff from the mail order places and pay for it himself. When he wanted an Indian bicycle that cost $65 (a LOT of money in those days), his dad told him he could have it if he would pay for it. Ed bought it and kept it in the house. He used to take everything on it apart, clean and grease the parts and reassemble it.
One day Ed was riding on the dirt road west of town with some other kids; he was showing them how he could ride with no hands! He struck a rut in the road and busted the front wheel (wheels had wooden rims in those days). It was 2 or 3 miles back to town so he left the bike in a ditch alongside the road and caught a ride in a truck that was going to a farm to pick up a load of wheat. They were going to get the bike on the way back to the grain elevator in town. When they got back to where he’d left his bike, it was gone! He was heartbroken. When he got to town and told his dad about it, his dad told him that he’d heard about the accident and had brought the bike to the bike shop and left it there for repair. What a nice surprise! Now you can see why he loved his dad!
Graduating from high school in 1925, Ed studied engineering in college. It was the golden age of American invention and Ed watched it all: insulin (1922), traffic signals and cathode-ray tubes for future television and computers (1923), loudspeakers (1924), liquid-fueled rockets (1926) analog computers and Scotch tape (1930), the electron microscope (1931), the zoom lens and light meter (1932). 1933 was a bounty year with FM radio, stereo records and drive-in movie theaters. In the rest of the 1930s, Ed observed the Monopoly game, magnetic tape recorders, canned beer, photo copiers, jet engines, ballpoint pens, Teflon and helicopters.
Ed moved to the Dutch island of Aruba in 1931 to work as an engineer in the oil refinery there. Aruba was close to oil-rich Venezuela. This prompted Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) to complete in 1929 the largest oil refinery and storage facility in the world. Ed chose to stay on the island through World War II, helping produce gasoline to keep the United States air force flying in the Pacific. From his beach view home, Ed could watch as the wolf packs of Nazi submarines attempted to block the Allies from getting their oil through the blockade.
After retiring at the age of 52 and spending 30 years in Aruba, Ed and his wife moved to the Orlando, Florida area where Ed built the home in which he lived the remainder of his life. After being a widower for several years, he met my mother in the spring of 1991 and asked her to be his Square Dance partner! At that time, he was 83 years old. Never having children of his own, mother brought into his life her 6 adult children and many grandchildren that he loved as though they were his own.
What were Ed’s secrets of longevity? He mentioned only his favoring the taste of oatmeal with bananas! He did the work and hobbies he loved. He was very wise with handling money, had a simple, trusting faith in God, took a nap every day, ate two meals a day and a snack, plus had a hobby he loved – computers. He kept very busy with his computers. He was one of the first members of the Central Florida computer club. At the age of 100, the computer club gave him a ‘lifetime membership’ and he no longer had to pay club dues!
He was an amazing man. He died quietly in his sleep with his hands folded on his chest like he always slept.
Make choices today that will help you live to be all that you can be. Choose Health!