HTR NEWS: Ed Shimon graduated from Lincoln High School in the 1930's. Many years have passed since his graduation, but his life ethics and drive to be independent have never wavered.
His school days bring back one of his happiest memories. "I remember as though it was yesterday," Shimon said. "I remember one day in the morning, I said to myself, 'I'm the luckiest guy on earth. I have the nicest parents on earth.' That's the only thing I can remember from long ago as though it was yesterday. Going to the high school, which very few kids did back in those day. I was so lucky."
Upon graduation, Shimon earned a teaching degree from a Milwaukee teaching college. He appreciates how fortunate he was to stay in school. In those days, most farm kids didn't finish high school, let alone college. His father's father was a physician, and education was always a priority.
Manitowoc County man celebrates 100 years
MANITOWOC - Ed Shimon worked on his tractor and fed his barn cats Tuesday morning at the Whitelaw area farm he's owned since 1945, before heading inside to watch the birds at his feeder, do some reading and play with his indoor cat, Lucy.
It's all in a day's work for the Shimon, who celebrated his 100th birthday March 10 and is still going strong. He still lives on his own, and despite some hearing loss and a body that works slower than it used to, still gets on quite well. As he heads into a new century of life, Shimon took some time to reflect on his long life with HTR News.
"I was kind of lucky in life; I always was in good health," Shimon said. "I never had any alcohol or smoked in my life. There's a tavern right down the road from here, and I am sure there was many years when I never set foot in that tavern. That was unusual."
Until a few years ago, Shimon walked four miles around his block once a day.
"I couldn't walk that far anymore," he said. "I enjoyed the walk."
His caretaker Sharon Otte, who is one of two caretakers who comes in a few days a week to help Shimon, said he also eats a healthy diet, with plenty of homegrown vegetables and apples from his orchard.
Good genes are part of it, too. Two of his siblings are still with us: a brother who is 98 and a 96-year-old sister. Other relatives on his mother's side lived into their 90s, and his mother passed when she was 88. His wife Irene died a few years ago.
He has two daughters, Kay and Jan, who live out of state but returned to Wisconsin for his birthday celebration, in which more than 100 friends and family came to his farm to wish him well.
Shimon lived his whole life in the area, working as a teacher and farmer. He also served as Whitelaw president, and on the Reedsville School Board, among other civic positions.
"I liked to keep busy," he said. "I think everything in my life I enjoyed doing, which I think is unusual."
Shimon graduated from Lincoln High School and earned a teaching degree from a Milwaukee teaching college. He appreciates how fortunate he was to stay in school. In those days, most farm kids didn't finish high school, let alone college. His father's father was a physician, and education was always a priority, Shimon said.
Of course, things were different back in the day. Shimon recalls a time when his childhood home didn't have electricity and said he learned to drive tractors and cars at an early age.
"I remember very well we had a neighbor, who was a bit of an alcoholic and loved to play cards," Shimon said. "He wanted to go and play cards, and he wanted me to drive him there. I wasn't more than 10 or 12, and I still don't know why my parents let me take him over there. Why would they do that? In those days you didn't need a driver's license."
His school days bring back one of his happiest memories.
"I remember as though it was yesterday," Shimon said. "I remember one day in the morning, I said to myself, 'I'm the luckiest guy on earth. I have the nicest parents on earth.' That's the only thing I can remember from long ago as though it was yesterday. Going to the high school, which very few kids did back in those day. I was so lucky."
He worked as a teacher in Rosecrans, Wis., in a two-room school, after graduating from college in about 1938.
"I love kids," Shimon said. He left teaching to work on his dad's dairy farm about five years later during World War II. He was drafted, but because his father was getting older he chose to stay home and help him rather than join the U.S. Army. A short time later, he bought his current farm.
He had a good-sized farm, with about 30 cows, which was big in the days when most farmers had about 10 or 15 cows, Shimon said.
Shimon marvels at the energy he had back in the day.
"I can't figure out how I did a lot of that stuff," he said. "I had to dig a (water) line from the house to the barn, and I dug that myself with a shovel! It was six-feet deep! How did I find the time? That is a big job."
He also planted most of the trees in his good-sized yard, and still picks about a bushel of apples each year from his orchard. He used to sell them by the bushel, but not many people buy that many apples at one time, he said.
Shimon also sold poppy seeds he grew, but he gave that up as well. He still plants some vegetables, and he always had a big patch of strawberries.
In addition, each year he grows tomatoes from seeds from plants his mother also replanted every year. His great-nephew, Scott Schenian, just learned of the seeds, which go back at least 120 years ago, last year.
Ed Shimon shows off his wedding photo on Wednesday, March 21. (Photo: Josh Clark/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
"I had no idea," said the 55-year-old Cato man. "I've always seen the tomatoes growing on his window sill. He was in the hospital for about a month last year, and he asked if I could take care of the tomatoes. Later he told me they were from his mother, each year he dries them, puts them in an envelope and plants them again next year. He's grown them every year his entire life.
"These are family, heirloom tomatoes, and I never knew. I said, 'Ed, why didn't you tell me?'" Schenian said. "What if something had happened to them. What else isn't he telling me?"
They named the Italian tomatoes Italian Rose, after Shimon's mother, Rose, and now Schenian and his daughters also have some of the family tomato seeds.
Schenian helps out around the farmhouse and takes Shimon out to breakfast every Saturday. The two have planted more than 20,000 trees over the past 30 years on both their properties. "He's like a father to me," he said. "I've always been close to Ed. He never had a son, and his daughter, when they introduced me at the party, called me his son. It meant a lot to me. I have so much respect for him."
Ed Shimon in his home next to photographs of himself throughout the years Wednesday, March 21, in Manitowoc. Shimon celebrated his 100th birthday this year. (Photo: Josh Clark/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
Shimon is like a father to Schenian, whose own father died at a young age.
"He was always a good source for me for advice," Schenian said. "He's so level headed, and I respect his opinions so much. I wrote him a letter a few years ago telling him that."
That relationship means a lot to Shimon, who wants to live out his life on his homestead. He's ready for things to start greening up, and the temperatures to get warm enough to sit outside in his chair and watch the scenery around him.
"It's beautiful out here," he said. Shimon continues to take things one day at a time.
"I still don't give it much thought about how long I'll live," he said. "That's life. Why think about something you have no control over?"
Patti Zarling: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: (920) 686-2152; Twitter: @PGPattiZarling.