Celebrating a super-centennial birthday: Ethan Shelton turns 110

If you sit down in Ethan Shelton’s Berrien Center home, you’ll probably hear him playing some type of musical instrument.

His house is full of guitars, harmonicas, fiddles, pianos and even a tap dancing floor—surprising for a man who is about to turn 110.

Shelton has had quite a few accomplishments in the 110 ten years of his life. He was married for 69 years to the love of his life. Together they raised eight children and built a tremendously close-knit family that has expanded to great, great grandchildren about to have children of their own. Shelton’s wife passed in 1995. To this day he can vividly recall their love story and first date.

“She kept me happy for a lot of years, she was a very good person,” Shelton said. They met in Chicago after spending time in Lincoln Park. According to Shelton, his wife used to go out in the park and sing and have fun with a group of girls. They would sometimes turn the songs into ones about him.

In 1947 the Sheltons settled in Berrien Center, MI and started a farm which is still open and operational to this day.

As Shelton recalls, “I looked it up in the encyclopedia to see what kind of place I was getting into and they thought pretty good about the area so I decided to take a chance on it.”

His “chance” worked out. Now Shelton Farms has expanded to include a retail market as well. Even after he retired, Shelton continued to work on his own garden along with other hobbies.

So, what’s the key to Shelton’s longevity?

It’s a piece of advice Shelton has followed dearly since childhood—to chew your food slowly and eat lots of greens. A century of careful chewing led Shelton to get dentures just a few weeks ago.

Now his family has started heeding his advice about food and life. His children and grandchildren have adopted his positive life attitudes and tried to embrace his contagious love of music.

The Friday before his big birthday Shelton was seen out and about playing golf. He said he hit the ball about as well as he ever had.

“I think a big part of it is mental attitude. Dad is always focusing on the future, always focusing on positive things. He doesn't like to think about negative things, doesn't like sad movies and things like that,” Shelton’s youngest son, Joe, said.

To keep busy, Shelton recently started learning the violin and says he tries to practice every day. His love of music started more than 100 years ago when he picked up his brother’s harmonica and successfully played it as a young child.

Music, good health and positivity have kept Shelton alive and well throughout the years. Now the multiple generations of Sheltons will return home to celebrate the big 110.

“We’re a very close family which is a very cool thing, and I think that stems down from him too,” said Nick Shelton, Ethan’s great, great grandson.

Nick started a Facebook campaign to get Ethan onto the Today Show for their over-100 years old birthday shout outs. If anyone wants to show their support they can “like” the effort online.


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