CANYONVILLE — Ethel Slaughter speaks sparingly and just above a whisper. When she does, the wisdom she imparts from 10 decades of life experience is that it is the simple things that matter.
“We just had a happy family and life,” she said. “That’s what I like, going to church and being with my family.”
Slaughter celebrated her 100th birthday Monday at Forest Glen Senior Residence in Canyonville, where she lives.
Her oldest son, Billy Slaughter, 71, traveled from Jerome, Idaho, to attend. Ethel lived in her own home in Jerome until she broke her arm in a fall a year and a half ago. Since then she has spent most of her time in a wheelchair rather than getting around by walker as she used to do. She moved to Canyonville to be closer to her younger son, Carl Slaughter, 66, who is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Riddle.
Ethel Slaughter said she does not know the cause of her longevity.
“I don’t have any secret I know of,” she said.
Carl Slaughter credits clean living.
“She never smoked, drank or did any of those things. She always lived a healthy life,” he said.
Ethel Slaughter was born in Texas in 1914 and grew up in Oklahoma. She married Gene Slaughter when she was 25. He was 92 when he died seven years ago.
Billy Slaughter said he was born in a room over a general store in Roosevelt, Okla. Carl Slaughter was born in a hospital in Long Beach, Calif. Gene Slaughter built custom cabinets for homes in exclusive Long Beach neighborhoods.
Billy and Carl Slaughter said their mother was a homemaker and mother who made sure her children had plenty to eat and that the knees of their well-worn pants were patched.
“She always took good care of us,” Carl Slaughter said. “Having her as a mom I don’t think I could think of anyone better.”
“Amen,” Billy Slaughter agreed.
In 1979, Ethel and Gene Slaughter moved to Jerome, where they ran a 40-acre dairy farm with 250 milk cows. Billy and Carl Slaughter were grown by then and also moved their families to the farm.
Billy Slaughter recalled working “day and night” on the dairy. Recently divorced at the time, he relied on his parents to help him with his two children.
“They helped me raise my kids. They were like Mom and Dad to those two,” he said.
Carl’s son Travis Slaughter, 35, an Air Force sergeant stationed at Mountain Home, Idaho, joined Monday’s birthday celebration. He remembers his grandmother was like a second mother to him and his two sisters.
“Everybody else was always out working and grandma was always the one taking care of us kids,” he said.
He said he couldn’t miss her birthday.
“It’s not every day you have a grandparent that turns 100,” he said.
Carl Slaughter said his mother didn’t see turning 100 as a big change over being 99.
“We asked her if she felt any different and she said, ‘No,’” he said.
Forest Glen business office manager Tammie Cullett attended Ethel’s birthday lunch on her day off.
“Every time there’s somebody in the building that’s 100 years old, we don’t miss it. It’s too special,” she said.
Cullett said she enjoys spending time with Ethel.
“She smiles a lot. If you go up and sit with her and talk for a little while, she just seems joyful,” she said.
Ethel’s picture will go up on a wall honoring seven other centenarians who have lived at Forest Glen.
Other Forest Glen residents stopped by Monday to wish Ethel a happy birthday.
Millie Sheirls will turn 94 at the end of the month.
“I have only six years to go, and I’ll be there,” she told Ethel.
Laverne Vickman, 89, extended a wish for Ethel’s continued longevity.
“It’s the first year of your next 100 years,” she said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.