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Paonia resident celebrates 104th birthday

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Photo by Don Benjamin A party at the Senior CommUnity Care Day Center in Eckert honored Margaret "Peggy" Clements, a Paonia resident who celebrated her 104th birthday on March 1. Her family was on hand and the turnout of well-wishers was so large the crow

What do you say when a well-wisher corners you at your birthday party and asks how you managed to achieve the venerable age of 104?

If you're Margaret "Peggy" Clements, you smile with a twinkle in your eye and answer: "I guess I just don't know when to quit."

Born in Illinois on March 1, 1914, as Margaret "Peggy" Durbin, she later married Kenneth Clements and the couple moved to Phoenix. They retired to Paonia in 1970. Peggy has three daughters all of whom live in Delta County and a son who resides in California. She also has seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and 14 great-great grandchildren.

"That's it so far," she adds.

As to whether she wants to be called Peggy or Margaret, she thinks for an official newspaper story she'd prefer Margaret, however everyone knows her as Peggy. It sometimes mixes people up she admits. She recalls that her husband called her Peggy and that was the name her children recognized so years ago when she went on a family visit with her six-year-old son he was confused. After sitting through several family discussions he finally pulled her aside and asked, "Why is everybody calling you Margaret?"

Speaking of names, someone at her birthday party pointed out that the names of all her children begin with the letter 'K.' "Any reason?" she was asked. "No reason," she answers, "I just liked the names."

Karla Tschoepe, the eldest daughter, operates Wildwood Ranch on Wakefield Mesa near Paonia. It was Karla's presence in Paonia that brought the rest of her family to Colorado. Kyra Kenniger, the middle girl, lives in Delta. And Karen Budinger, the youngest girl, serves on the Paonia Town Council. Kenneth, the youngest and only boy, lives in Los Gatos, California. The sisters are fond of reminding him that he was supposed to be a girl and that they had his name all picked out: "It should have been Kristine, with a K."

Peggy's favorite job was working as a secretary at Memorial Hospital in Phoenix. Her favorite hobby was raising rabbits. She tanned the hides and fashioned them into "vests, hats, bags, about 150 pillows, and at least one purse." She also kept bees and grew roses. She enjoyed square dancing with her husband and the couple was active in local theater. Margaret was an actress and Kenneth wrote a play called "Life is Earnest." And she has fond memories of attending horse races with her uncle and she hopes to see the horses run again someday.

But Peggy isn't stuck in the past. At age 99 she got her first computer and she still enjoys emailing family and friends. Peggy attributes her longevity to her Catholic faith and she also has some sage advice for her younger friends: "Avoid drugs. Enjoy life. Live naturally."

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