This article appeared in the Grand Forks Herald in 1993.
WALKING HER WAY TO 100 ALICE
IRWIN GOT OFF THE FARM TO SAVE HER LIFE -- AND IT
A Minto, N.D., doctor once told Cecil Irwin that if he wanted to keep his wife alive, he'd better get her off the farm. He did want to keep her alive, so he did move.
Alice Irwin was in her late 40s working much too hard on the farm four miles from Ardoch, five miles from Forest River and six miles from Johnstown, N.D. The doc said she may not see 30. They took his advicse.
Today Alice is looking at double 50. If that doctor could only see her now. Twice every day, arm and arm with her daughter, Beulah Hodges, 73. Alice walks the corridors of Columbia Mall. It's their exercise.
Alice and Beulah live together as close as a mother and her daughter can be, they're also protective of one another I had her when my soul was growing up and I worked. Turn about is fair play," Beulah said. "She's just a child yet. She's my baby," Alice added, and off they go.
At 99, Alice is charming, little lady standing 4 feet 6 inches. Beulah is proud that her mother "stands remarkably straight." Alice's eyes have dimmed. Macular degeneration of the retina, "is my main fault," she says. He little aches and pains, "always feel better after I've walked. We don't walk fast. I get out of breath if we go too fast."
They've been spotted and admired by other walkers. Among them, Doug Fonlaine, Grand Forks. "They look just alike and they are so interesting to talk to. I was playing Santa Claus and here they were walking around. I noticed them one day and went and gave each a big hug. Alice is everlasting smiling. It is so darn sweet. They are the cutest pair."
Since Beulah retired in 1980, after 31 years with Great Northern and Burlington Northern Railroad, the two have faithfully walked to keep limber.
No cooking at their house
they leave their south Grand Forks homes and have
breakfast at either the Village Inn or Grama Butterwick's.
Beulah has bacon and eggs. "I have Raisin Bran and she
gives me a piece of bacon," Alice said. Then it's off to
"We come in the north door by Penney's and go through Target and turn around and go back," Beulah said. "It's getting to be as we go along everyone speaks to us," Beulah said. "Sometimes we talk (to each other) and sometimes we go the whole round and don't say anything."
The two eat a lunch of only fruit at home. "Once in a great, great while, I'll eat a cookie." Alice admits. There's a time for rest, but at 4:30 p.m., it's back the mall and a different route. "We park by the Royal Fork and walk through Dayton's and back," Beulah said. Each night they dine either at the Royal Fork Buffet Restaurant or at the Tomahawk Cafe. "I'm too lazy to cook "Beulah said. "And I can't see to cook," Alice adds.
Walking is nothing new to Alice "I've always walked. When I was a teen-ager, we thought nothing of walking three or four miles to a party, playing games all evening and then walking home. We played games. We didn't dance. I've never danced a step in my life. My dad didn't think it was right to dance or to play cards.
Born in 1893
Alice was born in Griswold, Iowa, in 1893. Her family moved to Eagle Lake, Texas, when she was 5. Ever since being caught on the edge of the Galveston hurricane in 1900, she's been afraid of strong winds. Her family also lived in Spokane, Wash., and for a short time in Canada. Married at 19, Alice was 23 when she and Cecil moved back to his family's farm in North Dakota.
Besides keeping house, Alice had two daughters. She helped put in and take off each year's crop.
"I worked out in the field when we had horses. I worked out in the field after we had tractors." She fed the pigs, the chickens, the turkeys. She cooked for a crew of 26 threshers each fall. "If she was cooking something and found out one of the hired men didn't like it, she'd make something different for him," Beulah said. Alice defends herself. "Well, I couldn't help it. I thought, someday I'm going to be old and I'll want someone to be kind to me." There were only two things Alice didn't do back on the farm. "I never could milk. I could not learn to milk, and I didn't harness the horses. The harness was too heavy to lift."
After doctor's orders, Alice and Cecil lived in Grand Forks during the winter months. They moved here permanently in 1951.
Their land was sold to Walter Yon. "The farm was in the Irwin name for 90 years and we hope it will be in the Yon family for another 90 years," Alice said.
The Irwins also wintered in Florida, Arizona and California. Alice's other daughter died in 1972 and Cecil died in 1974.
For pleasure Alice says her four cassette players at various spots in their home "keep me busy." She has 58 tapes, including recordings of the New Testament, variously readings and the music she enjoys.
A lover of travel, Alice has been to every one of the 50 states. "She's been back to all the places she's lived," Beulah said. Last summer Beulah drove them to Longview, Wash., for a golden wedding anniversary. Last year, they also made trips to Minneapolis, South Dakota and Chicago. Three years ago, they drove to San Antonio, Texas, to attend the high school graduation of Alice's great-great-grandson. "She loves to ride and I love to drive. I've got over 90,000 miles on a 7-year-old car," Beulah said. "And I've gone all of them with her except around town here a little bit," Alice added.
Maybe Alice has had a long life because she's tried to keep positive. "I was bound I wasn't going to be a complainer. My mama and my papa weren't."
She's proud of her 14 great-grandchildren 18 great-great-grandchildren. "Before I'm 100, I'll have another." Many of them are coming from all over to help celebrate her next birthday. Three cousins are coming from Spokane this month. "That's when the party will start," Beulah said.
Alice tosses a parting word over her shoulder after bidding adieu: "I'll try to stay alive until Aug. 10." That's the day she'll be 100.