Pearl Melissa Blackburn used to say that the secret of her longevity was eating chili peppers daily.
Now the 100-year-old resident of Rocky Mountain Care-Clear-field loves sweet pickles and chocolate and usually keeps a bowl of M&M's or other sweets by her bedside.When Blackburn, who turned 100 on March 15, told nurses and others at the nursing home that she wished chocolate grew on trees, marketing director Jodi Speicher glued candy kisses and tiny candy bars on a miniature tree as a surprise gift.
But the treats aren't needed to maintain a pleasant disposition. She seems to always have a good sense of humor, according to recreation therapist Frankie Draidfort.
"She also has a strong soprano voice, loves to sing and enjoys our activities. She placed second in our Valentine King and Queen contest," she said.
Blackburn's birthday was marked by a visit from about 75 family members and friends. She received a card signed by President Clinton.
Blackburn was born in the Mormon settlement of Colonia Diaz, Chihuahua, Mexico, to George Mortimer and Pearl Melissa Wilson Brown. Her great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, was a secretary to LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.
As a child growing up in the colonies, she witnessed first-hand the destructive raids of Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. She also recalls the devastation caused by a big flood, which in November 1907 nearly wiped out the small town of Oaxaca and claimed the lives of many people she knew, said Linda Cervantes Briggs, Provo, a granddaughter.
Blackburn married Joseph Dyle Lillywhite in 1917, and they had five children, including a daughter, Sylvia Linda Wariner, Layton. The Lillywhites were later divorced.
The centenarian later married William Jasper Blackburn in the Mesa LDS Temple. He died about 1967. She lived in Arizona, California and Washington before moving to the Clearfield nursing home from Weiser, Idaho, in 1989.
Blackburn's descendants include 17 grandchildren, 67 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. A sister, Emma Julia Lee, who is about 95, lives in California.
Wariner said she and her husband, Cecil, took her mother out for a hamburger last fall.
"She liked lots of onions on her hamburger, so I took along an onion and a knife so I could add additional slices. She grumbled that she didn't get extra treats in the rest home," Linda Wariner said, explaining that she told her mother that she knew the nursing home would give her any treats she wanted.
" `But they don't give you onions,' " Wariner quoted her mother.
"Most people don't consider onions as a treat," Wariner said with a smile.