There are 688 Iowans who have reached the age of 100. Seventeen of those "centenarians" were on hand for a luncheon today in their honor. Vernon Miller of Jesup says one of the keys to his longevity is ice cream.
Miller’s preference is for homemade ice cream. Miller’s a farmer who lived through low livestock and crop prices during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Farm Crisis of the ’80s.
"If I haven’t seen something yet, I don’t want to see no more," Miller says. "Look how everything went — down. You couldn’t even pay your taxes anymore." Carl Ritscher of Keystone was born in Germany and arrived to the U.S. when he was 17. Farming was his profession, too. "We started farming with horses, you know, and now we’ve got tractors," he says.
Ritscher worked as a farmhand, saved his money and started renting ground to farm in 1931. He went broke in 1932 when corn sank to eight-cents-per bushel. "But the landlord said, ‘Just stay there, it’s going to get better and it did, finally," Ritscher says. Today’s luncheon was held in West Des Moines at the Governor’s Conference on Aging. Iowa’s oldest resident is Emma Carroll of Ottumwa. She celebrated her 112th birthday last week.