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Former rodeo queen and 'Rosie the Riveter' turns 100
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Former rodeo queen and 'Rosie the Riveter' turns 100

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ELKO – Former rodeo queen and “Rosie the Riveter” Barbara Beal celebrated her 100th birthday in style at Highland Village.

Beal’s milestone was celebrated by family and friends on Aug. 29 as she danced to the Temptations’ “My Girl” with her daughter Becky Cummings, and enjoyed cake and ice cream.

“That was a real party,” Beal said afterward. “I loved every minute of it. I saw friends and relatives that I haven’t seen for many years.”

The party was the second one this year for Beal, who celebrated her upcoming birthday in February with Grammar No. 2 Elementary schoolchildren as part of their 100th day of school.

Family members from California, Kansas, Oregon and Elko attended the celebration, with about two dozen more friends and residents from Highland Village joining in the festivities.

A native of southern California, Barbara Tibbals was born in San Diego County, growing up with four siblings. The family later moved to Bishop where she was crowned the rodeo queen as a teenager.

During World War II, she worked in a factory building planes and married her husband of more than 50 years, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Henry Elder Beal Jr.

A military family with four children, the Beals moved frequently, living in Colorado, California, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin. Today, she has four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

In a toast, grandson Todd Beal called his grandmother “the true glue of the family.” She was the one who was always organizing annual family reunions in Lake Tahoe to keep the family connected, he said.

“You always bring us together,” Todd Beal told his grandmother. “We come together as a family … and that’s so important, the family aspect. You’re always doing it.”

When asked about how Beal made it to 100, family members said Beal’s love for cross-country skiing, hiking, and optimistic spirit were a few of the reasons they were celebrating her birthday.

“Look at her,” Todd Beal said to the crowd gathered in the Highland dining room. “She’s vibrant, she’s beautiful and she smiles all over the place.”

Beal’s good health and positive outlook made Highland Estates Director Joanna Contreras do a double-take when she learned Beal’s age.

“When she said ‘I’m going to be 100,’ I thought she was joking,” Contreras said. “She’s so positive and full of energy.”

When Beal herself was asked about how she reached 100, she cited her upbringing on a ranch, a clean lifestyle and “probably just my genes.”

“I had good meat, good food and vegetables. I never did smoke or drink, I never got into that,” Beal said. “I had a lot of great friends.”

Mostly, everyone agreed that Beal’s optimism and friendliness were her greatest traits.

“She really enjoys being alive. She’s a unique gal,” said son-in-law Tony Gray, who drove from Kansas City for the party.

“She’s a very happy and giving person and really generous,” Gray added. “She’ll help anybody.”

Fellow centenarian Gene Farwell, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 1, recalled how Beal reached out to her after Farwell moved into Highland Village a few years ago.

“When I came here she was one of the first people I met,” Farwell recalled. “She made me feel real welcome and introduced me around.”

“She’s always smiling, laughing and happy,” Contreras added. “I’ve never seen her be down, just tired after shopping with her daughters.”

Having a love for life is the main reason Beal said she believes she’s lived so long.

“My life has been good. It couldn’t be better. I have been very fortunate,” Beal said. “Oh, I’ve a few moments where I’ve cried … but I live from day to day and enjoy each day. I am lucky to have a good family that we have fun together.”

For Beal, her day – and her life – is complete.

“I can’t fathom ever going through life without this opportunity,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful thing that is happening to me.”

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Courts, K-12 schools & Spring Creek reporter

Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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