Beatrice Robison Payne, at 106 years old, is the oldest person in Utah Valley.
The 84-pound woman was honored recently by Gov. Gary Herbert as one of 145 centenarians in the state of Utah; she is one of three who have reached the age of 106.
Beatrice still has her original teeth, doesn’t wear hearing aids and has never worn glasses. She’s kept her beautiful thick hair. The only concession to age is Beatrice uses a wheelchair.
“I don’t always use it,” defends Beatrice. Shirley Payne Sanders, her only child, says, “But she needs to.”
Born in 1909, one of seven children, Beatrice remembers going from horse and buggies to the jet age, the sinking of the Titanic to watching a man walk on the moon and living through the Depression and many wars.
She comes from a long line of family who have lived extended, healthy lives. Her mother, Rachel Robison was 100 before she died, her dad, John Robison Jr. was 98. Beatrice has two living sisters, ages 92 and 89. Thelma Ingersoll, the 89-year-old sister lives in Salt Lake city and visits her every Tuesday without fail, said Shirley Sanders.
Beatrice doesn’t drink soda pop. She eats very little meat. From about age 20 until she was 100 Beatrice drank a concoction of honey and vinegar. “That’s why she’s never had any trouble with her arteries,” said Sanders. Breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal; for lunch she loves mandarin oranges. Beatrice skips supper.
She was born in Wyoming and lived in Montana where she met Arden Payne. They married in the Cardston Alberta LDS Temple in 1933 and moved to southern Utah. Daughter Shirley was born in Idaho and then the family moved to Montana. Beatrice and Arden moved to Provo in 1993. Six years later, Arden died at 93 years old after 66 years of marriage.
Beatrice lived with her daughter and husband until she was 102. The past five years she has made her home at the Courtyard at Jamestown in Provo. She has five grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. Beatrice recently attended a temple sealing of a great-granddaughter in the Payson LDS Temple.
“She’s been a good mother,” said Shirley Sanders, age 80. “She expected a lot of me. I did a lot of dancing and my mother made all my costumes. It was the pre-TV days — we’d entertain at clubs, fairgrounds and night shows.”
Beatrice was such a talented seamstress she could look at a picture of a dress and be able to design and sew it, added Shirley. She also crocheted baby blankets, booties, doilies and potholders; until last year, she continued to crochet.
“During her 90s, she made applique ‘tie quilts’ using men’s ties,” Shirley said. “They were hand-quilted and then fine embroidery stitches were completed around each of the ties.” Beatrice has completed three of them and given them to her grandsons. Each quilt took more than two years to complete.
The “tie” quilts are a tradition started with Beatrice’s mother, then Beatrice and now Shirley is making one. Shirley’s husband, Lynn, passed away last month; Shirley is using his ties to create a “tie” quilt now.
Besides being a skilled seamstress, Beatrice was a great cook.
“She was still making pies when she was 100,” said Shirley. “The crust was so tender, it melted in your mouth.” Chicken and Swiss steak were her specialty meals.
“I loved her liver and onions — my dad didn’t like it but I did!” Shirley said.
“Great-grandma made homemade bread,” said Shelby Sanders, 20, a student at Brigham Young University. “I’ve had other homemade bread but it was never as good as hers.”
Beatrice hand-dipped chocolates, wrapped them individually and placed them in candy boxes as gifts for Christmas. Shelby Sanders, whose home is in Oregon, said, “Whenever we’d go to great-grandma’s there was always candy in a bowl.”
“But she never ate it — she wants to stay small,” Shirley said. “She’s always been fussy about her weight.”
The Paynes loved to travel and visited all 50 states, mostly by motorhome. At age 90, Beatrice toured Hawaii; at age 93 she cruised to Alaska. Shirley caught the traveling bug and continues to explore the country.
“One of my favorite memories of great-grandma is she had a big purple bed — she loved purple,” said Shelby Payne. During a sleepover “she’d tell me about growing up on a farm.” Shelby thinks it‘s neat to have a grandma who is 106 — "I don’t know too many people who are that age.”
Both Beatrice and Shirley love doing genealogy and collecting family history and photos of their ancestors. “She was of the philosophy that you had to make every moment count,” said Shirley.
Shelby believes both grandmas are her heroes. “They are inspiring with all the genealogy and family history they do — I hope to carry on. Great-grandma is so talented and has done so much in her life. She’s very organized and responsible. She is used to not being wasteful because she grew up during the Depression — she’s very resourceful."
What makes Beatrice happy? “Seeing our grandchildren,” answered the small-in-stature but giant-in-abilities great-grandma.