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At 100, Onstine recalls ‘a good life’

Evelyn Onstine of Powell turns 100 years old today (Tuesday). She still lives independently at her home and enjoys gardening. Evelyn Onstine of Powell turns 100 years old today (Tuesday). She still lives independently at her home and enjoys gardening. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

Not very many people reach their 100th birthday. Even fewer still garden, bake, do housework and live independently after a full century.

For Evelyn Onstine, staying active is just part of life — even as she marks her 36,525th day on earth.

“I worked all my life, which never hurt anybody,” she said.

Onstine continues to take care of her home in Powell, preparing meals and working in her immaculate garden.

Aside from help with vacuuming and mowing the lawn, “I do everything,” she said, adding, “I love my home.”

Onstine started doing housework about 87 years ago, when she was 13.

In addition to caring for lovely flowers in her yard, this summer she grew tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes and kohlrabi in elevated garden boxes, which allow easier access.

“I enjoy it,” Onstine said. “I love to have flowers.”

In recent years, there has been one lifestyle change that was difficult to adjust to.

“The only thing I really miss is not having a car,” she said.

“I always had a car, but I decided myself that cars were going by too fast on the street down here,” she said, referring to Division Street. “And I thought, that’s it. So I just turned my license in.”

In her lifetime, Onstine has seen transportation in the Powell Valley evolve from horse-drawn wagons to modern vehicles. It’s just one of many changes Onstine has lived through as the world transformed over the past century.

As she marks her 100th birthday today (Tuesday), Evelyn is content and thankful.

“It’s been a good life. I have no regrets,” she said. “I enjoy day by day.”

‘Lived here all my life’

She was born Sept. 19, 1917, to Fred and Beulah Kemper at the family’s home near the Corbett Dam in the Powell area. When she was just a baby, her family moved into Powell and lived on Bent Street.

Her father did electric work on the Buffalo Bill Dam, which was the tallest dam in the world when it was completed in 1910. He also farmed and then worked as a ditch rider.

Onstine grew up attending Powell schools, graduating in 1936.

As a young woman, she helped with chores around her family’s home and others.

“When you were a teenager, you went to work in different homes — babysitting, cooking, washing, ironing,” Onstine said.

Over the years, she worked a variety of jobs, including the Farm Security office.

“Where didn’t I work? … I worked most anyplace,”  she said.

Some jobs paid about 25 cents per hour.

“You were lucky to get it,” she said.

In the late 1930s, she met Charles W. Onstine, who would become her husband.

“We met at a dance at Ralston, Wyoming,” she recalled. “He looked at me and said, ‘I think it’s time that we danced and get acquainted.’ And we did. Those were good old-time dances.”

Charles worked as a farmer, growing beans and sugar beets.

When looking back on her life, she said she’s most proud of her marriage to Charles, “an awesome husband and loving father.” She also is proud of the five daughters they raised — Sharon, Shirley, Susan, Charla and Mary — and all their accomplishments.

Onstine also is thankful for time with her family and friends.

Today, Onstine has 10 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren (with another on the way), and three great-great grandchildren (and one on the way).

Onstine’s family and friends recently gathered in Powell to celebrate her 100th birthday with a party.

She also received multiple birthday wishes, including one from President Donald Trump and a letter from Gov. Matt Mead.

When asked whether she ever expected to live to 100, Onstine replied, “It’s just something that’s hard to really fathom that you did it. I just wish my father and mother were here to know it.”

In addition to staying active around her home, Onstine enjoys talking with people and welcomes visitors.

“I love every moment I’m spending with anybody,” Onstine said, adding, “I just like people. I always have.”

When it comes to advice for others, Onstine encourages people to appreciate what they have.

“Enjoy what you’ve got and don’t crab about it all the time. Enjoy who you have,” she said.

Onstine has lived all of her life in Powell, which she called “a good place to be.”

As for why she chose to live here, Onstine said simply: “It’s home.”

Over 100 years, Onstine has seen her hometown grow and change, along with the rest of the world. She remembers the Kopriva store downtown where everyone shopped, and the Blue Goose Cafe. She recalls a dairy over by the Park County Fairgrounds and many acres of farmland where today’s homes and businesses now stand.

When fugitive Earl Durand held up First National Bank in 1939, Onstine had been in the bank earlier that day.

“I don’t think he would have bothered me,” she said about the possibility of seeing Durand in the bank. “We were all neighbors on the north end of Powell.”

Onstine has shared stories of her life with her children and grandchildren. As she recalled memories from her Powell home recently, Onstine repeatedly said: “It has been a good life.”

“I live one day at a time,” she said.

7 comments

  • posted by Debbie Geldreich Telkamp

    September 20, 2017 8:00 pm

    I've known Mrs Onstine all my life. First neighbors on Lane 11 and then neighbors on Ave J. She was so friendly and I always looked forward to visiting with her. We were in Powell this summer and drove by our old house at 544 Ave J and wondered if Mrs. Onstine was still living in her little green house. now I know she is! Thank you for the article and hello to Mrs Onstine and Mary, who was the little girl at home I remember. Much younger than her sisters.

  • posted by Rachel

    September 20, 2017 7:38 am

    Happy happy birthday! I wish for you a wonderful day filled with family and love!

  • posted by Krista Rector

    September 19, 2017 9:36 pm

    What a beautiful article. As I was reading through this, I could hear Grandma Evelyn's voice telling the story. I could picture the twinkle in her eyes and the excitement in her voice. Thank you so much for capturing all of this in this article about a truly amazing woman.

  • posted by Bob Kaufman

    September 19, 2017 11:11 am

    Congratulations, your a very special lady

  • posted by sharon cope

    September 19, 2017 10:31 am

    thank you for the lovely article!! Sharon Onstine Cope

  • posted by Jodi Richard

    September 19, 2017 9:05 am

    We love you Grandma!!! Happy Birthday, and thank you for being you!! You are the BEST!!!!

  • posted by Mary L. Onstine Flom

    September 19, 2017 8:49 am

    A wonderful article about a beautiful lady

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