Western Colorado world traveler hits her 100th birthday
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado ” Working in her dad’s general store along Divide Creek as a kid, Bessie Edwards was among the first Garfield County residents to hear the radio.
“Every kid in the county came to our store to watch the radio,” she recalled. “I remember my brother ran home from school to hear his story on the radio. It was probably a cowboy story.”
But the fondest memory for the 100-year-old Rifle resident were the many countries she visited and lived in with her late husband, Seymour Simonsen.
Bessie Simonsen celebrates her milestone birthday this week with few regrets, a smile and many stories.
Born in Oklahoma, Bessie and her family moved to Southeastern Colorado “where the dust and wind blows all the time, and the thunderstorms,” Bessie added.
The family moved to Washington for a time, then came back to Colorado in a covered wagon, when she was six. Bessie doesn’t remember much of that trip.
“I was just a kid,” she said. “It was fun, I suppose. I remember we had to watch out for rattlesnakes.”
Bessie’s mother was a good marksman with a rifle. She shot the head off a snake at one point, according to Bessie.
“That’s a pretty good marksman, wouldn’t you say?” she asked.
Bessie married for the first time at 19, to Bob McDonald, who became the largest honey producer on the Western Slope, she said. She and McDonald divorced and Bessie met and married Simonsen, then started traveling.
“I said I wanted to have enough money to see the world and he said ‘save your money, I’ll show you the world,'” Bessie recalled.
Seymour worked in the construction industry and oversaw projects in foreign countries. While living in Africa, her husband shot and killed 19 elephants and seven leopards that were going into small villages, said Bessie’s daughter, Shirley Mobley of Rifle.
The only country they never made it to was Russia. Two trips to Russia had to be canceled at the last minute, due to the political climate at the time, Bessie said.
Bangkok, Thailand was her favorite, but every place was special.
“There’s so much good about every country,” she said. “I liked the jungle, the desert. I like hot weather.”
“A rajah in Bangladesh wanted me to leave my husband and gave me an elephant to ride around,” Bessie added with a chuckle. “He would have bought me, but I said no.”
One thing Bessie picked up in all her travels were native cuisines, which causes Mobley to call her mom “absolutely” the best cook.
“We lived off the local economy,” Bessie explained. “We had access to royalty in Thailand and Morocco, so I picked their brains to find out how to cook their meals. I was always interested in food and cooking since I was 9 years old.”
As someone who lived through the Great Depression, Bessie doesn’t remember being hungry or cold.
“But we never had a lot,” she added. “My folks lived on a farm, so we raised our own food. We had chickens, so we had eggs. And we had milk. My mom did a lot of sewing.”
Our current economic condition doesn’t really remind her of the Depression, but Bessie said she thinks it might be harder for people today.
“Just because everyone wants what they want right now,” she said.
Bessie can still get around OK, with the help of a walker. Since she fell at home last October, Bessie has lived at the E. Dene Moore Care Center in Rifle. Up till then, she lived alone and took care of herself.
When asked the most obvious question ” what advice do you have for others to live to 100 ” Bessie said “I never give it too much thought. I just live one day at a time.”
Bessie starts every day by opening the door, taking a breath of fresh air and saying “good morning” to the world.
“I love fresh air,” she added. “And the outdoors. I’m a good fisherman too, if I do say so.”
Maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone Bessie has made it to 100 ” several relatives lived into their 90s.
“I never thought this little ol’ gal would be sitting here and telling her life story,” she said.
A life well-lived is definitely a story worth telling.
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