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Deihl Boots (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Celebrating 102 years

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Deihl Boots marked two years past a century this week, celebrating his 102nd birthday Thursday at Heritage Manor.

"I smoked as a young man, but I didn't continue," he said simply of his longevity.

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Genetics may have come into play. His mom, Bertha Pritchard, lived to be just shy of 107, residing independently until moving to a nursing home at 104.

And diet and supplements, Boots' niece and caretaker Karen Day reports.

"I read about health and nutrition," he said.

And the Enterprise. A rumpled copy of the paper sits beside the subscriber, a magnifying glass aiding his reads.

Born in South Dakota in 1910, Boots moved to North Dakota with his family when he was a baby, his family homesteading property. The family subsequently moved to Iowa, Deihl recalling the journey in the covered wagon, his dad driving the team with an auxiliary horse tied behind.

The Boots would also live in Minnesota for a time before Deihl, at 30, entered the Army during World War II, deployed to New Guinea and the Philippines, where he served as a cook.

"I love to cook," said Deihl, who would become famous for his pancakes at Park Rapids Senior Center breakfasts.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt holds top presidential stature. "He did a lot for the country." And he remembers Harry S. Truman well. "He ordered the bomb drop," Deihl said of Hiroshima.

"Over There," George M. Cohan's song that became popular with U.S. soldiers, is his favorite.

After his four-year stint in the military, he went to work in a tire business in California for a time. "But that went broke."

The entrepreneur moved on to the chicken business, several thousand "layers" providing income.

From there, he went to work for Sunkist, running lemons through the juicing machines for 21 years.

After retirement, he moved to Michigan and subsequently Park Rapids, where his mother and other members of his family, including brother Darrell, lived.

In retirement, he became an adept real estate investor. "I didn't have money until after I retired," he quipped.

Married four times - twice divorced, twice a widower - he's the father of a daughter who lives on the West Coast.

Deihl had strong penchants for travel - buying a new car every two years. "Mostly Fords."

Deihl drove until he was 97, when cataracts precluded time behind the wheel. "That's when I came in the picture," Day said. He took no medication except vitamins until 1998.

Like his mom, he lived independently in his own apartment until May 2011. At 101, he agreed to move to Heritage, "never missing dinner."

Gardening was another passion. "I raised a garden every place I stopped - if I could find dirt."

His wardrobe belies his age, the centenarian dressed in a classic oxford shirt, neatly pressed khakis and a cashmere sweater.

Deihl's favorite movie is "Gone with the Wind," but Ronald Reagan holds precedence as best actor, "and I agreed with him as president."

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Literally.

The walls of his Heritage Manor apartment are lined with clocks, which are sparse in number compared with his former abode, Day reports.

Although "private and quiet with serious nature," Day said her uncle's sense of humor remains vibrant.

"He likes to laugh."

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