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For the week of May 31 through June 6, 2000

Alba Arndt turns 90 this Sunday

Former teacher, librarian loves living in Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Alba Arndt comes from strong Idaho stock. That means she likes to work hard, enjoy her friends and family, and contribute to the good of society without much fanfare.

On Sunday, June 4, she’ll turn 90 and will likely celebrate in a quiet manner.

That milestone may come as a shock to those who know her because Alba seems so much younger. Her eyesight isn’t as good as it was, and she likes to use a cane. But Alba remains as alert and healthy as ever.

We visited Alba in her Hailey home last week, intending to write an article informing people of her birthday and detailing some of the high points of her life.

She was very gracious, but she did make one suggestion.

"Pare it down," said the former Hailey schoolteacher and librarian, several times.

So here is a little bit of Alba Burton Arndt’s history.

Pared down.

Her Italian father and German mother homesteaded in southeastern Idaho in 1906. They settled in Virginia, in Bannock County 35 miles south of Pocatello on the stage line from Utah to Montana.

These days, Virginia is a tiny town just off I-15 on the road to Downey, where Alba’s younger sister still lives. Another sister lives in Aloha, Ore.

Alba Burton was born June 4, 1910. She married Chester Arndt in 1936 in Virginia. They were married 56 years. Chester died in 1992 at the age of 87.

Besides her family (one son, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren), her home in the old part of Hailey is Alba’s pride and joy. "This part of town is old Hailey and it doesn’t change," she said.

The three-bedroom, two-bath home was built in 1898 by William Bailey. It is 102 years old. Only the Bailey family and the Arndts have lived in the house over a century.

Alba, Hailey’s librarian for 10 years, said the section of old Hailey where she lives was platted in 1881. At one time, starting in 1884, the city’s namesake, John Hailey, owned four lots that Alba now owns.

In 1946, Alba and Chester came to Hailey from Jerome. They bought the property from the Bailey family in 1950. Alba taught school, mostly music and reading improvement, from 1954-74 in Hailey.

Chester, a builder who erected some of the first houses in Hulen Meadows, added the brick on the house and the front and back entry ways. He built a shed in the back yard that Alba treasures.

They planted fruit trees that had relatively short but productive lives. One magnificent pear tree, pushing 100 years old, still survives. One by one, they replaced the fruit trees with different conifers. The pine trees are very tall, now.

Alba and Chester toured Europe in 1962 and also spent time in Alaska. But Hailey was enough for both of them.

She said, "From the day we came to Hailey I knew it was home. Hailey is a friendly place—we’re still a friendly place—and I love it here.’ "I’ve seen a lot here in 54 years and it’s still wonderful. Sometimes realtors come by and see the house. I just tell them you couldn’t pay enough money to buy it."

Alba loved teaching and spending a decade watching over the library, and she had wonderful students. Nowadays, she’s seeing the children of her students coming of age.

There’s a lesson in all of it. She said, "It’s best if you can adapt to change."

She takes care of herself and is supported by friends. Alba keeps busy and reads as much as she can. "Large-print books are godsends for many people," she said.

Vitally important in the lives of senior citizens is the van transportation provided by the Blaine County Senior Citizens Center, where Alba has lunch three times a week.

"Because of the van, I’m able to stop at the bank and get the mail and go to the pharmacy," she said.

She is looking forward to a visit this summer from her son Henry Arndt. Also expected in August from San Juan Capistrano, Ca. is Margaret Bonney, a Bailey family member who enjoys visiting the homestead.

Henry Arndt has come a long way in the world following his graduation from Hailey High School in 1963 and the University of Idaho in 1967.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a doctorate in chemistry. Henry, father of two daughters and two sons, is a research chemist in the diagnostic division of Bayer Corp. in Elkhart, Ind.


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