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Centenarian's secret to longevity: Black coffee and a positive attitude

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Howard Dean

"Every day is a good day -- you just need to get up, put both feet flat on the floor and take off like an old quarterhorse."

Those are the words of Howard Dean, who is approaching his 100th birthday with a can-do attitude that hasn't wavered since he was born in Silt July 23, 1917.

He arrives at the DCI office for an interview, walking slowly but steadily up a short flight of stairs with the aid of a cane and his daughter, Donna Raymer. Though he doesn't move as quickly as he once did, he answers questions readily and offers words of wisdom that have been a hundred years in the making.

Howard, one of eight children, was raised on the family farm on Divide Creek outside of Rifle. When asked about his childhood pursuits, he responds, "Heck if I know. That was a long time ago!"

He had finished seventh grade when his father died. He quit school and began a lifelong career as a farmer, raising sugar beets, grain and hay. They had a few farm animals and ran sheep.

Being a farmer was "the best," Howard said. Though he rarely had a day off, he enjoyed being his own boss.

When he was 21, he met his wife Lorraine, then 16, at a dance. On Aug. 29, they will celebrate their 79th wedding anniversary. Lorraine, 95, lives in a nursing facility in Grand Junction.

In the 1950s, the Deans moved to Rulison, where Howard went to work for Union Carbide while continuing to farm on the side. He was a millwright for about 20 years. After the Union Carbide operation shut down, he was employed at the Rifle honor camp as a guard and work crew supervisor.

Howard and Lorraine moved to Palisade for a few years, but they weren't used to living in town so they found some good farm ground in the Swink area, in the southeast corner of the state. At that time, their daughter taught in nearby Rocky Ford. They farmed a little piece of ground and had a cow or two. They enjoyed fishing trips to the John Martin Reservoir, playing cards, participating in IOOF activities and traveling to auctions and dances.

"Mom and Dad were beautiful dancers," said Donna Raymer. "My mother said it was awful hard to be mad at someone when you were dancing in their arms."

About 20 years ago, Howard and Lorraine moved to a home in Cedaredge, where Howard still resides. When asked how he spends his days he responds, "Tell you what -- when you get to be 100 it doesn't take much to keep you occupied. Watching television is about my speed."

He is generally up by 5 a.m. to brew a pot of coffee and read the newspaper. In the Dean family, coffee is known as the "staff of life."

Farmers are accustomed to starting their days early, he says. For city folks, there's no reason to get up so they may as well stay in bed.

Howard has been active all his life, and Donna makes sure he keeps both his body and his mind sharp with outings to the coffee shop, the store or the barbershop.

Fortunately, visits to the doctor are few and far between. Howard jokes that his doctors are starving to death. He's approaching 100 and has never spent a night in the hospital.

Longevity runs in the family -- his grandmother lived well into her 90s and a sister died at the age of 101. A younger brother lives in Grand Junction. Howard and his siblings were all taught to be strong, independent and self-reliant. Though his mother was loving, there was no hanging on to the hem of her skirt. He was taught discipline, and believes that overindulgence has led to many of society's ills.

"Pop is a good example of how to live life," Donna said. "He's always been active and he's never stopped learning. He always says most of life is about your own attitude."

Most mornings, when Donna checks in with her dad by phone, she's greeted with, "It's going to be a good day."

"It's a nice way to start your day and a nice way to end the day," she says.

Howard and Lorraine have three other children -- Judy Simms of Cory, Sharon Cloud of Ogden, Utah, and Howard "Ed" Dean of Pomona, Calif.

All will be part of a gala 100th birthday celebration being planned for July 23. Friends and neighbors may send cards to PO Box 858, Cedaredge, CO 81413.

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