105-year-old John Andes

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See how a 105-year-old Tempe man lives his daily life, which includes exercise and use of modern technology.

Ted Simons: Finally tonight, we meet a Tempe man who's apparently been splashing around in the fountain of youth for years. John Andes was born a year before Arizona was a state and he's lived to see quite a few things and learn quite a few lessons. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Langston Fields introduce us to this very special man.

Shana Fischer: On most mornings, John Andes sets up shop at his computer and creates greeting cards to send to family and friends.

John Andes: Technology and the sort, it's been very useful to me. And it's helped keep my mind active.

Shana Fischer: And when you're John's age, keeping your mind active is key.

John Andes: Well, I became 105 on January 11 this year.

Shana Fischer: John will tell you he has lived quite a full life. He has born in 1911 in central Kansas and grew up on a wheat farm.

John Andes: My father was a progressive farmer. He was one of the first in the area to get a combine and a tractor. And I remember the first tractor he had was a three wheeler.

Shana Fischer: John helped his father a great deal on the form but education came first. He rode a horse and buggy to school. Once John graduated high school he headed off to college.

John Andes: Well, when I entered college, I was very interested in science. So I felt I was going to major in chemistry. The chemistry professor was a unique individual. He had created artificial diamonds. So I thought this would be a great place for me to take chemistry. But in my second year I discovered chemists were not in demand. You probably wouldn't be able to get a job! So then I said well, I better become a teacher.

Shana Fischer: Because of the Great Depression, John had to work at a market while going to school. Shortly before he graduated, he got a job at a one-room schoolhouse. He was the only teacher for all the grades.

John Andes: My year salary was $720.

Shana Fischer: And in his mind, that wasn't enough money to marry his high school sweetheart, Elray.

John Andes: We met in high school. Her brother was one year younger than I and he was in the same high school, and he invited me to their home one Sunday evening for dinner. And here I met his sister, who was still in elementary school! But she was a very attractive young lady and her mother was a darn good cook so I said well this lady needs to be looked after.

Shana Fischer: About a year later, John signed on with a teaching agency. They found him a better paying job in Wisconsin, one that would allow him to marry Elray. They were married for 70 years until she passed in 2007. Her needle point work hangs on his walls as a reminder of his one and only true love. John and Elray had two children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He stays in touch with them and credits technology for making that possible.

John Andes: The iPad has become a big part of my life, every afternoon. My daughter plays scrabble with me and Yahtzee. I have an e-mail from her every morning and every afternoon I play the games. That evening, she plays the games. So the next day we have a new routine.

Shana Fischer: John says he's fascinated by technology in general and he's seen a lot.

John Andes: Well, one of the most far reaching things that I've seen in my lifetime is improvements in technology from horse and buggy days to I saw on the news this morning a picture of the Google driverless car. Now, that's very outstanding to me. The landing on the moon was an event that stirred my curiosity. I think the next five or 10 years we'll see so many more things. If I live that long.

Shana Fischer: So how does one live to 105? Besides exercising which he does every day, John credits his long life to a positive attitude, a relationship with God, and good friends. Bob Ellis is one of those friends.

Bob Ellis: And he's a polite gentleman. I've never heard a nasty word come out of his mouth about anybody.

Shana Fischer: Ellis who's in his 80s himself says he learned a lot from his friend.

Bob Ellis: I've learned patience. Now, this sounds strange at my age to learn patience but I've never been a very patient person and as a result, just being with him is so satisfying. And you learn something else about John being 105 and I'm going to be 88. That's that you realize the line from Emily in our town, it goes so fast.

Shana Fischer: And John agrees. Time has gone fast but he has no plans to slow down.

John Andes: I'm looking forward to doing whatever the man upstairs has for me to do and then closing my life properly.

Ted Simons: John has a very full schedule. He serves on the advisory board at his retirement community, Friendship Village, and when he's not busy with that, he loves watching college basketball. Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," could the U.S. House of Representatives choose the next president? We'll look into that. And we'll hear how Arizona's primary fits into the national political landscape. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

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