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105th Birthday: Esther 'Essie' Lindeman

Born Sept. 15, 1915, Esther “Essie” Lindeman of Grants Pass experienced WWI as an infant, the Spanish flu pandemic when she was 3, reached adolescence during the Roaring ’20s and adulthood during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Most innovations that touch every aspect of our daily lives didn’t exist when Essie was growing up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. Radio was in its infancy, television was in the future, and the Internet and social media were unimaginable.

Essie wouldn’t have had time for phone chats, television or Facebook and Twitter even if they had existed while she was growing up.

She was 5 when her father taught her how to milk cows. Her father was killed by lighting when she was 9, and as the oldest among three siblings, she inherited responsibility for all of the farm animals.

“I had to milk the cows, harness the horses and haul milk to the creamery, mow hay and load it on a wagon,” Essie said.

When Essie was 15, her ambition was to learn how to drive something other than a team of horses. The family didn’t have a car so she learned to drive a neighbor’s truck, and she continued driving for the next 83 years until voluntarily deciding not to renew her license on her 98th birthday.

“I don’t know what to do with you,” the California DMV examiner told her after she aced her renewal exam when she was 96. He compromised, giving her a two-year extension instead of the usual four years.

Another interest crept into Essie’s life in the ’30s. A neighboring farm boy she “sorta liked” had left home for a commercial fishing adventure on Bristol Bay in Alaska. She was invited to a welcoming party when he returned home. A movie date followed. After a two-month courtship she married Don Duryea Nov. 20, 1935.

A cross-country automobile trip to Seattle and a harrowing boat journey from Seattle to Alaska found the newlyweds fishing and working in a Bristol Bay cannery in March 1936.

When Essie was seven months pregnant, she caught a cargo ship from Bristol Bay to Seattle and took the train to New York to have her first child.

They later bought property in Anchorage. Another son and a daughter were born there. Essie and family left Anchorage for San Diego in the mid-1940s.

“The boys had asthma real bad and the doctor told us to go to California,” Essie said.

During the years in San Diego another daughter was born; her husband died in 1960 following a construction accident; she raised her family; and married Herbert Lindeman in 1985. He died in 2002.

Essie remained in San Diego until 2013, when she moved to Grants Pass.

Her first-born, Don, lives in Merlin and her oldest daughter, Sharon, lives in Central Point. Her other son, Ed, is still in Alaska. Her youngest daughter, Yvonne, died in 2010.

Last year Essie was honored with a gala birthday party. Family from as far away as Alaska gathered at her independent living facility to celebrate with her.

This year the celebration will be more subdued, thanks to COVID-19.

What’s it like to be 105?

“It doesn’t feel any different than 104,” she quips.

Esther ‘Essie’ Lindeman