Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Longevity celebrated in Bellevue

Chrystal Harper hits century mark

Chrystal Harper in 1931 at 26 years old.

Chrystal Uhrig Harper of Bellevue might be turning 100 on Tuesday, June 28, but that doesn't stop her from planting her own flowers each year.

According to Harper's friend, Teresa Bergin, the centenarian is "already planning what she's going to plant next summer."

Harper sees her 100th birthday as just another day.

"She said, 'I don't see what all the fuss about me turning 100 is,'" said friend and neighbor Sharon Schrock.

Schrock first threw a birthday party for Harper when she turned 83. Schrock has since thrown two more when Harper turned 85 and 90. The party Saturday, June 25, will mark the fourth of its kind.

Schrock has said that the 100th birthday party, which will be held at her Bellevue home, is "an open house" for those who know Harper and want to see her and celebrate longevity.

"She's part of our family," said Schrock of Harper. The two have spent Christmas together for the past 30 years.

As for Harper's usual modesty, she isn't shying away from the upcoming celebration.

"She has started to enjoy (the parties) and gets to see a lot of people who she hasn't seen in a long time," Schrock said.

Harper has worked and lived in the Wood River Valley most of her adult life and did not retire from her job at the former Christiana Motor Inn until she was 88 years old. She drove to the job three days a week and only recently stopped personally mowing her three Bellevue lots with a push mower.

Harper is an avid reader and animal caretaker who has taken in many strays over the years.

Harper's father, William Uhrig, moved to Idaho from Illinois in 1887. He settled just west of Timmerman Hill at Stanton Crossing and was one of the first permanent settlers in the area. In 1917, he sold his ranch and moved to Boise with his family and Chrystal.

The Bellevue City Hall Museum has various memorabilia that Harper has donated from her deep Idaho roots. Among other items, the museum displays Harper's mother's wedding gown.

"She has been a very generous benefactor to the museum," said Bergin, who is also the president of the Bellevue Historical Society, which manages the museum.

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