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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Johnson marks 102nd birthday

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Longtime Alta resident Paul Johnson has been able to enjoy many celebrations in his lifetime.

The birth of eight children. A long and happy marriage to his wife. An active lifestyle that has included involvement in local businesses in several communities.

Johnson was also able to celebrate a milestone few others are able to commemorate, as he marked his 102nd birthday on Friday.

Johnson, who was born on June 14, 1900, is one of only 11 men in the entire state of Iowa who are currently 102 or older, and he said he has been pleasantly surprised to be able to have an age in the triple digits.

"I never thought I would live past 100," Johnson said. "I can't even remember my grandparents or anybody else in my family living this long. You might say it kind of snuck up on me."

Johnson uses a wheelchair to move around, but his mental abilities have not been diminished by his age at all. He can still remember many personal and national events dating back several generations, and was also able to live on his own in an Alta apartment when he turned 100, only moving into the Methodist Manor in Storm Lake 18 months ago.

"I would have liked to have kept living on my own, but it just got to be too hard," Johnson said. "I do feel fortunate to be here though. It's been nice here, and I've been able to get back to Alta some too, so it's been nice."

"He does remarkably well for his age," his daughter, Marie Thompson, said. "He still enjoys a pretty active lifestyle, and he's still able to move around and get to go back to Alta every once in a while too. He's had a very active life, and it's great that he's able to continue doing that for the most part today."

Johnson, who had eight children with wife Optime, who passed away in 1990, raised his family on a farm in Kansas, working both on the farm and as a butcher in one of the grocery stores in the local community. After a short stay in Underwood, Iowa, Johnson and his family moved to Storm Lake in 1949, where he worked at the old Russell Marks store for 10 years until moving his family to the small northeast Iowa community of Oelwein.

He lived in Oelwein for six years until he reached the age of retirement in 1965, and he and Optime then decided to come back to northwest Iowa, settling in Alta, where he has been ever since.

Johnson has been able to see his children enjoy success in life as well, as six of the eight are still alive and living in Montana, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oregon and Cedar Rapids. Thompson, who resides in Alta, is the closest to Johnson, and visits him several times a week in Storm Lake.

Johnson's room at the Methodist Manor is full of pictures of his family, and the man celebrating his 102nd birthday said he is thankful for his family and the years he has had to spend with them.

"I've had a great life," Johnson said. "I just feel very, very fortunate."

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