Erma Mathews turned 100 years old earlier this month and is now Pine Canyon’s oldest resident.
Erma was born on Sept. 6, 1923 as a twin. During her mother’s pregnancy, her parents were living in a cabin on the mountain in Pine Canyon by the smelter. Her mother was placed in a big bucket and brought down the mountain on a makeshift “tram” when she went into labor. Then she was taken to the Tooele Hospital where she gave birth to two girls.
Shortly after Erma and her twin were born, her parents moved to a small home in Pine Canyon her father built. Today, she lives right next door.
Growing up, Erma had three siblings: her twin, a sister, and a brother. They attended first through sixth grade in a two-room schoolhouse very close to their home. Since then, the schoolhouse has been torn down and the lot remains empty.
Erma has fond memories growing up in Pine Canyon.
“We always had activities,” she said. “I played the drums for a band. We would get on a great, big flatbed hay wagon and we put all of our instruments up on that. We started at the top of Pine Canyon and we came all the way down playing music. We did it whenever people wanted us to.”
Erma attended Tooele Junior High and Tooele High School. During school she enjoyed dancing.
“I was never lazy,” Erma said. “I was always doing something … I did waltzing, the jitterbug, and the fox trot.”
Erma graduated high school in 1941.
Shortly after graduating, Erma met Willard “Butch” Mathews; the man she would marry and spend her life with.
“My husband was in the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Erma said. “He was sent from Indiana to Tooele. We [her family] used to go to the ball games every week and I spied this guy on second base. I thought, ‘Oh boy, he’s good looking.’ It wasn’t long after that until my dad parked in front of this little café while we went to a movie show and I saw him inside the café. I said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to go to the show. I’ll just sit here and wait for you.’ I told my cousin, ‘Go and tell that guy I want to meet him.’”
Erma’s cousin told Willard that Erma would like to meet him and he came out of the café and asked Erma if she would like to go for a walk.
“We went on a walk and the street had a light pole here and then another light pole there and all along the street,” Erma said. “Every time we came to one of those poles, I turned my head so he wouldn’t see my freckles. I hated those freckles all my life … We talked after that and soon we got going on dates and courting.”
Willard obviously didn’t mind Erma’s freckles, because he married her on July 22, 1941.
Willard, Erma, and her father built a home right next door to her parents’ home, because she didn’t want to leave her favorite place in the world: Pine Canyon.
“The people and the town kept me here,” Erma said. “It’s the best place in the world to live.”
During the Great Depression, the people of Pine Canyon helped each other by trading what they had for what their neighbors had. The lack of the 1940’s never had a great impact on the people living there.
“We were all friendly and we helped each other,” Erma said.
Willard and Erma had five children: four boys and a girl. While her children were growing up, Erma stayed home to care for them and tended to the house.
To keep herself entertained, Erma painted, made sculptures, made Christmas gifts all year long, and was her ward’s chorister for over 25 years. She also served with her husband at the Jordan River Temple from 1977 to 1991.
Erma’s husband passed away in 1992. The couple celebrated over 50 years together before his death.
During her earlier golden years, Erma enjoyed dancing at senior centers with her friend.
She now has 90 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. She also has one more great-great-grandchild on the way for a total of 91.
In her free time, Erma enjoys putting together puzzles, painting, watching Shirley Temple movies, and listening to music. Her favorite artist is Jim Reeves.
“I’ve just taken to Jim Reeves in my old age,” Erma laughed. “He’s my favorite of all.”
Earlier this month, Erma was invited to a luncheon put on by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and his wife for Utahns aged 100 and older. Erma was invited because she was so close to turning 100.
The party was held on Aug. 24 at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan. Out of the 150 centenarians in the state, 50 attended the luncheon.
During the event, the governor and his wife came around and greeted all who attended, including Erma.
A few days before her birthday, Erma’s family held a party for her. Friends and family from all over the state, as well as surrounding states including Idaho and Nevada attended, for a total of almost 100 party-goers.
“My birthday party was wonderful.” Erma said.
Now that her birthday excitement has passed, Erma said she doesn’t feel as though she has lived an entire century.
“I don’t feel any different than I did before I was 100,” she said.
Her secrets to a long life include keeping busy, avoiding alcohol, drugs, and smoking, avoiding soda, keeping a healthy diet, and treating people kindly.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Erma said. “Be happy; don’t gossip; be friendly.”
Her doctor recently told her she has high levels of good cholesterol. Geriatric research has found this means a very long life is ahead.
If Erma could change the world, she would start by eliminating harmful drugs.
Erma is proud to be Pine Canyon’s oldest resident.