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105-year-old Utahn says he believes in 'staying out of trouble'

SANDY — For most of his adult life, Don Kirk was a man who enjoyed dancing. In fact, for many of the nearly 64 years he was married, he and his wife Olive danced as much as they could.

"He met my mother at Saltair, back in the days when Saltair had the big dance hall," explained Richard Kirk, 78, the middle child and only son of the couple's seven children. "He and my mother were great dancers who danced all of their lives."

Olive Kirk passed away in November 1994, but even after losing the love of his life, Don Kirk kept dancing two to three times a week, his son said. It was a passion his father pursued until just a few years ago.

Don Kirk talks with Chris Armstrong, a social worker worker with Encompass Home Health and Hospice, after she gave him a birthday hat to wear for his 105th birthday celebration, the day after his actual birthday, at Cedarwood at Sandy, a senior living res
Don Kirk talks with Chris Armstrong, a social worker worker with Encompass Home Health and Hospice, after she gave him a birthday hat to wear for his 105th birthday celebration, the day after his actual birthday, at Cedarwood at Sandy, a senior living residence, in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

"He really liked dancing," Richard Kirk said. "He was a great dancer!"

Now one of the oldest living Utahns, Don Kirk celebrated his 105th birthday on Sunday. The occasion was marked with a party in his honor Monday at Cedarwood Senior Living community in Sandy, where he lives.

In recognizing the extraordinary feat of reaching his current age, Don Kirk said he is appreciative of how his life has turned out.

"It's pretty wonderful," he said. "I believed in being good and honest and staying out of trouble as best you can. And I love my family."

Richard Kirk said his father has always been a good man who lived his life according to solid principles.

"He was a great father who was very interested in his family," he explained. "He was a great worker, a great supporter of his family and a great member of The Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) all of his life."

Don Kirk talks with his grandson Don Braden at his 105th birthday celebration, the day after his actual birthday, at Cedarwood at Sandy, a senior living residence, in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.
Don Kirk talks with his grandson Don Braden at his 105th birthday celebration, the day after his actual birthday, at Cedarwood at Sandy, a senior living residence, in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

For much of his professional career, the elder Kirk worked as a credit manager for Fuller Paints in Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Boise. The family eventually returned to Utah in 1960 where they have remained ever since.

Over the years, Don and Olive raised their seven kids in their Salt Lake area home, where they made their lives together.

"He just loved my mother very much," Richard Kirk said. "They were a couple. They went dancing, to church activities and they were always together."

"She packed him a lunch every day for work," he added. Don Kirk stayed in that house until 2 ½ years ago at the age of 102.

Richard Kirk and his father Don Kirk look at old family photos during Don Kirk's 105th birthday celebration, the day after his actual birthday, at Cedarwood at Sandy, a senior living residence, in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.
Richard Kirk and his father Don Kirk look at old family photos during Don Kirk's 105th birthday celebration, the day after his actual birthday, at Cedarwood at Sandy, a senior living residence, in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

"He fell, and we thought he needed to be where he could be watched a little bit and get better care," his son said. "Until then, he mowed his lawn, shoveled the snow and drove his Cadillac."

He finally gave up driving in his late 90s, Richard said. For the most part, his health has been pretty good, though today he gets around in a wheelchair when he is not in his apartment.

"When people ask him what he attributes his old age to, he says he has never had a taste of beer, no alcoholic drinks, never smoked, had a bowl of oatmeal every morning and he never chased the women," Richard Kirk said.

As one of 13 children, Don Kirk was close to many of his siblings and was always there to support his brothers and sisters whenever he could.

"He is just a very caring, great guy and compassionate fellow," his son said.

Today, Don Kirk's family includes his seven children, 37 grandchildren, 99 great-grandchildren, 56 great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild.

And while at age 105 he doesn't get around quite the way he used to, he still lives by himself on his own, said Margaret Nuttall, Cedarwood sales and marketing director. She recalled one recent occasion where he had the chance to enjoy one final dance at a community function.

"We had someone help him out of his wheelchair and he was able to dance a dance. It was really exciting for him because he is a dancer," she said. "It's an honor to have him here as a centenarian. Having lived the kind of life he's lived, it gives others something to aspire to."