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Today's word on

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Those were the days:

"The way I had it is all gone now. The bars are
gone, the drinkers, gone. There remain the smartest, healthiest newspeople in the history of the business. And they are so boring that they kill the business right in front of you."

--Jimmy Breslin, newspaper columnist, 1996 (Thanks to alert WORDster Jim Doyle)


Ninety-year-old woman stays energetic, even after three husbands

By Megan Roe

January 27, 2005 | Just five days shy of her 90th birthday, Carmen Boss explains how she outlived her three husbands.

"I exercise night and morning," Carmen exclaimed. "I'm not trying to brag or anything, but I'm really flexible."

Carmen is so agile that last year she was spotted out on the roof overhang of her third floor suite at the Pioneer Valley Lodge, a retirement complex in North Logan. She was cleaning the outsides of her windows.

"They hadn't been cleaned since the building was built," Carmen said, "so I went out on the roof to clean them. If you do it barefoot, you have better traction."

One of the workers ran up to her room and begged her to come inside. The managers promptly hired someone to clean the windows. Sitting in that same apartment, Carmen giggles as she tells about farming with her first husband.

"Archie and I had the first hay bailer in the Bear River Valley," Carmen said, "It took two of us to work it. I was the best hired hand he had."

Carmen and Archie Richardson had dry farms in Sublet, Idaho and Lewiston, Utah. They also owned a turkey farm in Garland, Utah, where they raised 7000-8000 turkeys during 16 years of marriage.

"We'd feed the turkey's wheat during the year," Carmen said, "then toward the holiday's we'd feed them corn to make them fat."

Carmen wasn't able to have children so she put most of her time into farming with Archie. After several years of marriage, Carmen realized she wanted a baby. She called an adoption agency and nine months later, they called her back.

"Archie was out cultivating the beets when I ran out and said, ‘Arch, we've got a baby!'" Carmen said.

"He asked ‘what is it?' and I didn't even know. I hadn't even asked if it was a boy or a girl," she said.

The couple went and picked up their new baby boy, ran to the store and bought clothes, diapers, and formula, then brought him home. Carmen said she thought he would cry through the night. She and Archie stayed up all night just looking at him. He never woke up.

When baby Brent turned three, Archie became ill with nephritis, a disease that caused his kidney's to fail. He died soon afterward.

"When he was three, his dad died, so I promised him I'd get him a dad and sisters and brothers," Carmen said about Brent. That's exactly what Carmen did. Archie's sister and brother-in-law took care of the farms, while Carmen went to beauty school in Salt Lake City. While there, a friend told her of a man from Preston who had recently lost his wife to leukemia. Carmen called that man, Merlin "Slim" Whittle, and they went on their first date.

Through Carmen's first husband, Slim and Carmen had ties that they never knew about. Carmen soon found out that Archie bought his Lewiston farm from Slim. Archie also had a horse that he entered into a contest at the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds. The horse won the contest and was named "prettiest parade horse in the state of Utah." Unbeknownst to Carmen, Slim was the judge of the contest.

"Isn't that a hoot?" Carmen laughed.

Slim and Carmen were married in secret two months after they started dating.

"Like dumbbells, we decided to get married without telling anyone," Carmen laughed.

By this time she had only met three of Slim's five children, none of whom knew that the couple had been married. When they entered the house Slim gave a stern warning to his kids:

"This is your new mother and you had better treat her well," Slim said.

Carmen felt terribly worried that this might make Slim's three teenage kids hate her, so at that point, she decided she would do everything in her power to be good mother to those children.

Carmen was worried about Brent, and Slim's youngest daughter SueAnne, because they were growing up in "the middle of nowhere," so she made them take ballroom dance and etiquette lessons so they would have refinement and culture in their lives.

Nancy Maughan, Carmen's step granddaughter through Slim, remembers the Whittle dairy and home being spotless. She said you couldn't find a speck of dust, even on the blue-painted cement floors in the basement. She also remembers Carmen cooking a huge breakfast for everyone after she came in from milking the cows.

"Her middle name should have been vivacious," Maughan said, "because she loves life."

Maughan said it was always so much fun to go to grandma's house because there was always something to do. She said if they weren't playing games of sports, they were riding horse or going on slay rides at Carmen's house.

"When I was about 20 years old, our family was playing a game of softball and I remember being mad because Grandma was a better ball player than I was," Maughan said.

Maughan said her grandmother has always been a strong woman. That strength has helped her through many tragedies.

Just before SueAnne started school at Brigham Young University, she and Carmen were in a terrible motorcycle accident on their dairy farm.

"How bad was it? They picked the hooks from my bra out of my back three days later," Carmen said.

Both SueAnne and Carmen lived, but many of the tendons in Carmen's foot were cut and the accident pinched a nerve in her back that she still suffers from today.

While in college, Carmen's son Brent decided to join the Navy. While living in Virginia, he was hit by a bus. He died within an hour of the accident.

"I don't really like to talk about that," Carmen said. "It was so hard."

Only a few years later, while on a mission with Carmen for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Hampshire, Slim found a lump on his collar bone. They flew back to Utah and found out he had cancer. A friend from the mission and an apostle of their church, L. Tom Perry, gave Slim a blessing.

"He came into our home and gave him a blessing, but never at any time during the blessing, did he say that Slim would live," Carmen said.

Carmen said she wasn't ready for how the chemotherapy would affect her husband's health. Slim was so sick that Carmen said "he was more dead than alive" during his sickness."

"Boy, did they use him for a guinea pig," Carmen said. "They medicated him to
the Nth degree."

Slim died in 1976. Carmen played Somewhere My Love from the Academy Award-winning movie Dr. Zhivago on the piano, at the funeral.

In 1977, Carmen married Chet Boss. Chet introduced her to the world. During their 20 years of marriage, Chet took Carmen to Israel, China, Hawaii, Panama, Australia, and all over Europe. She also began golfing with Chet, and "even beat him a few times.

Chet died on Memorial Day of 1997. He was 88 years old.

Though Carmen could never give birth to children, she has a very large posterity due to her three marriages. She has 1 adopted child, 10 stepchildren, 48 step-grandchildren, and 86 step-great-grandchildren. She said she might even have step-great-great-grandchildren but she's not sure because she doesn't know if Chet's great-grandchildren have had kids.

Carmen knits, paints and makes toilet paper holders for her step-children and grandchildren. She has made an afghan for every one of her great-grandchildren.

"She is a huge character," Maughan said, "but that's why we love her."


Copyright 1997-2004 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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