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Utah’s oldest resident turns 109

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Alton Blain kisses his mother, Pearl Blain, at her party Wednesday.

Alton Blain kisses his mother, Pearl Blain, at her party Wednesday.

Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News

ROY — The oldest known living Utahn — and possibly the last living person born in Utah before statehood — turned 109 Wednesday.

Pearl Blain, who Wednesday commemorated her birth on Oct. 13, 1895, at the Heritage Park Care Center, was born in Spring City, Sanpete County, just three months before Utah became a state. Just two months before her arrival, the first-ever automobile race in the country was held. About 10 months after she was born, gold was discovered in Alaska.

Some 60 people, including at least two dozen residents of the care center, were on hand to sing her happy birthday and enjoy cake and ice cream. Although Blain is no longer cognizant of her surroundings, she is in otherwise good health and managed to eat some ice cream.

Vickie Wheus, a granddaughter from Hooper, said she was thrilled a few days ago when her grandmother opened her eyes briefly.

"We don't get to see her eyes very often," she said.

What's her secret to such longevity?

Her family believes it may have something to do with the lack of medications in her life.

"She's not on any medications," said son Alton Blain, 77, of Roy. "She's lived in three different centuries and seen all kinds of things."

"Who knows why she's lived this long," he said. "She didn't want to live this long."

A daughter, Twyla Foster, 79, said although her mother had pneumonia several times and a few mini strokes, "she's just lived a good life." Care center workers do have to feed her, but she was extremely active in the past, Foster said.

"She was always doing something, quilting, canning, cooking. She couldn't even watch TV without doing something," "She's just a very hard worker," Wheus said.

Blain has been in the care center for almost 14 years. Previously, she lived alone in Ogden. Her husband, Grover, was 86 when he died in 1978.

"She didn't go to the store for bread," Wheus said. "She made bread." Working at the Defense Depot in Ogden and the Navy Base (now the Freeport Center), she was busy on two fronts.

It was only in her mid-60s that her family convinced her to purchase a washer and dryer. She had always washed by hand and never did use the dryer.

Her other son, Grover C., died last August. There's no other examples of extraordinary longevity in her family. Gov. Olene Walker sent Blain a letter, referring to her as "Utah's oldest female resident. . . . a devoted mother. . . . a strong, wonderful woman."

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com