- Associated Press - Saturday, January 14, 2017

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Leonard Ross should have expected to live a long time.

His grandfather made it to 97. His father lived into his 90s. His brother, 101. His mother passed away at 104. He’s got longevity on both sides, he said.

Still, Ross said, “I never thought I’d reach this point.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, he turned 107 years old.

He still lives in his hand-built cabin off Pacific Creek Road, still cooks himself breakfast in the mornings, still does short laps around the house to stretch his tired legs. He still gets excited for a party - he got his hair cut Saturday (Jan. 7) in preparation for his birthday shindig Sunday - and he lights up every time a familiar face walks through the door.

“What amazes me about Leonard is he remembers all of us,” neighbor Diane Duffie said.

Decades-old friends and Ross‘ 70-year-old son, Jim, filled his cabin Sunday to celebrate the centenarian, piling in around Ross, who sat comfortably in his overstuffed chair. On the kitchen table sat a cake - chocolate with white icing - with candles in the shape of the numbers 1-0-7.

Dr. Roland Fleck is the keeper of the cake, having taken charge of this duty shortly after Ross turned 100. The retired physician has known him for decades, meeting him back when he came to town more often.

Fleck was never Ross‘ primary doctor. He thinks he saw him once or twice. But whenever Ross came into the practice, he made sure to do his own rounds, saying hello to the staff, shaking hands.

“He had a grip like a man who was 50 years younger,” Fleck said.

That was nearly 20 years ago, he said, when Ross was in his late 80s.

“The most wonderful thing is he’s not only physically very fit for his age, but mentally he’s very fit,” Fleck said. “His long-term memory is absolutely outstanding.”

His guests laud Ross‘ ability to tell a good story - true-life tales that bring listeners decades back in time.

“What’s neat is to listen to him go back,” neighbor David Bishop said. “He’s 10 years older than my father, and he goes back another decade. I come over, and he starts telling me hunting stories.”

Ross spends most of his time sitting under a line of his trophies - deer, moose, bighorn sheep, antelope. He tells stories of when you could get a hunting license for $5, of shooting competitions that he won (and lost), of turning the other cheek when a big buck walked up just after he had filled his tag.

He talks about his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the ornately detailed canvases he painted that line his walls; and what it was like growing up in the 1920s and ‘30s.

“There’s so many - he’s got a lot to choose from,” Duffie said. “I just learned last year he was a world-class sharp shooter. His life has been very full.”

Ross is not officially the oldest person in Teton County - the Wyoming Department of Health’s Aging Division knows it doesn’t have paperwork on every person in the state - but he’s the oldest in department records for Teton County and the second-oldest statewide, surpassed only by a 108-year-old Lander woman.

“He’s just amazing,” neighbor Beverly Babcock said. “He may live to be 110.”

He’s pretty satisfied with 107, he said. Most of his days are spent tucked inside his warm cabin, watching wildlife walk past or napping in his chair. Friends often stop by to check on him, bringing by plates of food. When he goes to town for a bite to eat the waitresses at Bubba’s always have a Pepsi ready for him - something he swears he never drinks otherwise.

“He is always in a good mood. He never complains,” Fleck said. “And he’s always been that way.”

When asked the best part about turning 107, Ross laughed and said, “Nothing!”

But after a short pause, he changed his answer.

“They haven’t charged me for haircuts since I was 100 years old,” he said with a smile.


Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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