Aged to Perfection


100th birthday is the ticket to centenarian party hosted by the guv

By Natalie Hollingshead

Not many people know what life was like when Theodore Roosevelt was president, the maximum speed limit was 10 mph and the American flag had only 45 stars.

But Utah’s centenarians do.

At 100 years of age or older, they’ve been around longer than Corn Flakes, color photography and crossword puzzles. They have watched 18 presidents serve the United States through two world wars, the civil rights and women’s liberation movement.

There are 13 of these venerable residents in Utah County and more than 150 centenarians in the state of Utah. With the average life expectancy in Utah hovering at 77 years – it was 47 years in 1905 – these seniors have accomplished the extraordinary by making it to 100.

Utah Valley Magazine chatted with four of the county’s centenarians at the 19th annual centenarian celebration hosted by Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. in Salt Lake City and gleaned some of their wisdom for the aged.


Dr. Russell B. Clark

Although he’s been invited to the governor’s celebration since he turned 100 in 2000, this is Dr. Russell B. Clark’s first appearance at the event — he’s simply been too busy working.

Russell, who turns 105 in November and lives in Orem, worked as a physician and surgeon and is now a real estate developer. In 2003, he was honored as America’s Oldest Worker, and event organizers claim that the only way they could get Russell to show up at the centenarian celebration was to have him give the keynote address.

In addition to his staunch work ethic, Russell reads the newspaper every day and is gearing up for his sixth marathon in October.


Russell’s Words of Wisdom

Live for the day — “Too many people live for tomorrow, for a new house, another child, a better job. How foolish it is for us to wait; tomorrow may never come.”

Appreciate life — “If it rains, it rains, if the sun shines, it shines and we appreciate both.”

Best decision – “Probably to get married.”

Most important life event — “My birth would be first, and the many miraculous and scientific events that have happened.”

At the annual event hosted by Utah’s governor for centenarians, Orem’s Russell Clark shared lessons he’s learned in his 105 years.


1. Invite yourself to live

2. Make yourself physically fit with exercise and nutrition

3. Forgive yourself and others

4. Regain self esteem

5. Return to the world of people

6. Reach out to help others

7. Believe in a higher power and purpose

8. Practice gratitude plus humility

9. Take one step at a time

10. Protect your skin from the sun

11. Make a ritual of beauty routine

12. Practice preventive medicine

13. Find ways to handle stress and strain

14. Stay involved

15. Seek ways of intimacy and closeness

16. Keep your color in clothing stylish

17. Give a hug and smile to people


Karl Miller 

In his 102 years, Karl Miller has kept a close eye on the “Y.” He was raised near BYU campus, attended school there in the late ’20s and worked in the physical plant for 40 years.

As an animal husbandry major, Karl judged stock with Ezra Taft Benson, former president of the LDS Church. He was Provo’s first faculty policeman and was present when officials placed a time capsule in the Maeser Building cornerstone and when other officials took it out as part of BYU’s centennial celebration.

“I’ve seen everything that’s ever happened at BYU since they dedicated it,” says Karl, who still lives in Provo. “I used to work on lower campus, and now I’ve outlived lower campus.”

Although he’s kept close tabs on BYU, Karl has also traveled around the world and visited South America, Europe, Alaska and New Zealand. But no matter where he goes in the world, Karl says he always runs into someone who used to work for him at the university.


Karl’s Sage Advice

On doing your best — “Do the best you can, wherever you work, whatever you do. Make the best you can right while you’re here. There is no tomorrow, there is no such thing — only today.”

On working hard —  “Work the best you can and that’s how you make it; you make it by doing the best you can for other people.”

On enjoying others —“I’ve enjoyed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of students who worked for me. There is someone who used to work for me no matter where I go.”


Lillian Ercanbrack

After spending more than 50 years as the wife of a rancher, Provo’s Lillian Ercanbrack knows about hard work. She has cooked thousands of meals for hundreds of hired hands and was known for tasty food and even tastier desserts. Lillian even spent her 50th wedding anniversary with sheep on the desert.

So when she attributes her longevity to work, she means it. But she also knows how to have fun and makes friends easily. For her 100th birthday party in April, guests came from California, Colorado and Arizona to celebrate with her.

Lillian also enjoys staying up on current events and watching game shows, especially “The Price is Right.”


Lillian’s Motto 

“The key to life is work.”


Blanche Creed

Blanche Creed has lived in Orem since 1956. Despite being 102, she owns her own house and has a can-do attitude to thank for her longevity.

“I don’t know how I’ve lived this long,” she confesses. But her granddaughters tell a different story, saying their grandmother was successful at doing most things for herself. Blanche once took a toaster apart on the driveway and repaired it without help.

“No one told me I couldn’t,” she says.


Blanche’s Thoughts 

On Utah Valley — “It’s a great place to live.”

On reaching her age — “I don’t know; I just kept busy.”

By the Numbers

155 number of centenarians in the state

13 number of centenarians in Utah County

105 age of Dr. Russell B. Clark, Utah’s oldest known male resident

110 age of Pearl Blain, Utah’s oldest known female resident


Natalie Hollingshead is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly about home, family, food and travel for a handful of publications, and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Elyssa Andrus. A native of Alberta, Canada, Natalie lives in Orem with her husband and their three children.

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