She remembers the party line on the telephone. She still feels sorry for Mrs. Nixon. She remembers the dormitory room at the University of North Dakota, where she graduated in 1928.
The fact that she is one of the oldest people in North Dakota and around the world doesn’t seem to matter to Iris Westman. She sits quietly in her room at the Deaconess Health Center in Northwood.
Her 114th birthday is Aug. 28.
She apologizes because she can’t see or hear well. She makes up for that with her pleasant nature. And she thinks of summers on the farm near Aneta, N.D., where she grew up – and where she still owns land. She thinks of picking carrot tops instead of weeds when she was sent out to the garden. She remembers ironing clothes before there was electricity in the farm home. In those days, the flat iron was heated on the stove.
She smiles when she talks of the rules about listening in on the party-line telephone in the old days.
“That was a no no,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
‘’But,” she said, “sometimes it was good because it let you know about your neighbors.”
She never was an outdoor girl. Work outdoors on the farm fell to her three brothers. And with her two sisters, Iris Westman was assigned to tasks indoors or helping out in the garden.
There’s a Holy Bible on a shelf in her room. Her window faces out on the court yard. In August, it is covered with well manicured grass. During the long winter, it’s covered with snow.
Though she has traveled widely, Westman is content and rich in memories. She thinks of her first airplane ride.
“I was a little worried. I was glad when I felt that first bump when coming down.’’
Now, she says, she doesn’t experience the weather – except once in a while when attendants take her out on the patio for fresh air.
She enjoyed playing bingo, but she has too much trouble hearing. Still, there is a pink teddy bear she won at bingo sitting on a shelf nearby.
She is rich in memories. She wears attractive clothing. She smiles and listens attentively to pick up what visitors say. As she approaches 114, Westman seems content. She is cheerful.
She doesn’t say much about President Trump, but she likes to talk about President Harding.
“My dad and a lot of people liked President Harding,” she said. “He was the first president I voted for.”
Then she thinks about Mrs. Nixon and said, “She was a lovely lady.”
She pauses. Then she says, “I think to be president you have to be a very strong minded person. You get a lot of competition, especially in the Senate.”
Westman never married. After graduating from UND, she earned a degree in library science at the University of Minnesota. Before retiring, she was a librarian in Worthington, Minn.
She taught school. She came home to Aneta to help out during the Great Depression. She remembers helping her mother move into Aneta after the death of her father.
She likes to remember the good days. As a child, she went with her whole family to Yellowstone Park.
“We camped and stayed in good housing,” she said. She thought a while and added, ‘’You don’t go out and pet the bears. You stay away.”
Reach Marilyn Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 701-772-1055.