In 100 years of living, George S. Shurtleff has watched the world march forward with one technological advance after another: the invention of the automobile, man's first step on the moon, creation of an artificial heart, an evolution of man's communications that has grown to embrace satellites and computers, and thousands more.
The most impressive thing that has happened so far in his life, he recently told his children, "is the attacking and trying to get rid of prejudice."Shurtleff was born March 14, 1889, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, and came to the United States with his parents, Noah L. and Mary S. Shurtleff, when he was about 3. He and Leona Leaver were married in the Salt Lake Temple, Jan. 14, 1914, and raised five children: George S. Jr, Salt Lake City; Maryann Coons and Jean Shurtleff, both of Tucson; and Helen Shurtleff, who is deceased. His wife died in 1966.
"I asked him the other day what he wished he had done when he was younger," Coons said, "and he only had two real regrets. First, he never learned to swim. Second, he never returned to Cardston."
His greatest pride is his family, which has swelled to include five grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, many of whom will celebrate his centennial at a family dinner in Tucson. Next in line of pride is the mission he served in Switzerland for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Shurtleff was an accountant most of his life and didn't retire until he was 86. He did all the yard work for his daughter, Maryann Coons, with whom he spends winters in Tucson, until four years ago. (He lives in Utah during the summer.) At 96, she said, he had some trouble with his legs and it became a bit much for him.
"He's always been a very strong man, physically and morally," Coons said. He's also very dependable - and very gentle."
His physical strength, she said, came from a youth spent working on a farm and an active adult life that has included baseball (he played in a semiprofessional league). But his "big love," said Coons, has always been the earth. "Gardening has been a favorite thing; he loves flower gardens and vegetable gardens.
"He's a great man, my father," Coons said. "I only wish he could run me The foot race that he wants to run."
She has no doubt that, if he could run that race, he would win.
Happy birthday, Mr. Shurtleff.