A century in the making: Gene Farwell celebrates her 100th birthday on New Year's Day

Imogene "Gene" Farwell celebrated her 100th birthday Jan. 1 at Highland Village. 

ELKO – The New Year’s baby of 1918 celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday with family and friends at Highland Village.

Imogene “Gene” C. Farwell received a red rose from family members and was greeted with applause by more than 70 people as she entered her birthday party.

“I can’t believe it,” Farwell said, when asked about turning 100. “It’s awesome!”

Farwell was born shortly after midnight Jan. 1, 1918 in Lucien, Oklahoma. She attended business college in Enid and met and married her husband of more than 50 years, John Farwell, when she was working in a bank.

Throughout Farwell’s life, she ran a motel with her husband, owned her own western and sportswear store, took up painting, and learned belly dancing in her 70s. She lived in Colorado and Arizona before moving to Elko to be close to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Farwell said three things helped her get to be 100 years old.

“I’m blessed by God. I know I am,” Farwell said. “I’ve always tried to take care of my body … and I keep a positive attitude.”

Farwell walks 15 minutes three times a week, she said, and regularly participates in Sit and Fit at Highland Village.

Mary Allen is the manager at Highland Village and has known Farwell for three years.

“She’s healthy. She walks and keeps herself in great shape,” Allen said. “She’s a wonderful person.”

Farwell is also a master bridge player and teaches others the game. For 10 years, she’s played bridge at the Elko’s Senior and Active Lifestyles Center with Dick Harris.

“She’s sharp as a tack,” Harris said. “She’s jovial and likes to win – a good competitor.”

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“When I grow up, I want to be just like her,” said friend Joelene Holmes. “She has all this spunk. She’s spry … very witty and creative.”

When Farwell was born, the United States was engaged in World War I, Woodrow Wilson was president, and the average price of a Model T Ford touring car was $360.

Looking back, the most “drastic change” Farwell has seen in her lifetime is the rise of the internet, adding that the “saddest” change is the quality of education for children.

“It’s gone downhill,” Farwell said.

Farwell’s family traveled to Elko from Arizona, Michigan, California and Las Vegas for the party. Her great-granddaughter, Sam Nyberg, made her birthday cake and said her great-grandmother’s achievement is “amazing.”

“I’m happy she can be with me and I can be with her,” Nyberg said. “We’ve had good conversations, and she taught me how to make pie crusts.”

“When I make them, it’s in honor of her.”

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Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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