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Centenarian celebrates big birthday milestone in Plains

Thursday, July 17, 2014

by Ed Moreth, Sanders County Ledger

July 13, 1914, was the day Robert Goddard, an American physicist, received the first patent for his liquid-fueled rocket design. It was the day Friedrich von Wiesner of Austria completed his investigation of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the spark that ignited World War I. And in the United States, it was the day Herman Whisennand of Plains, Mont., was born in North Dakota.

Sunday, 26 members of the Whisennand family and almost 20 friends helped him celebrate his 100th birthday at Clark Fork Valley Hospital's Long Term Care with goodies, gifts, cake, and cards.

"I think he really liked it, but he got tired," said JoAnne Colyer, one of three Whisennand daughters at the hour-long party, which included a large cake with a lighted candle on top. "I guess I better get closer," Whisennand said after four attempts to blow out the candle, which he got on his second try at the closer range.

One hundred years has slowed him down a little, said Colyer, but she said he still likes to tease the ladies. Trudi Henderson, long term care's activity director, said Whisennand periodically bowls on their modified lane, plays bingo, and nearly always takes part in sing-a-longs.

Five generations of the Whisennand family made it to the party, including relatives from Great Falls, Missoula, and Denver, Colo. Visitors ranged from 4-month-old great, great grandson Edward Blake Ducept to 71-year-old Leona Ekstrom, one of his daughters. Family members guided Whisennand for various group photos. Colyer put together a photographic historical display of her father's life.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock sent Whisennand a citation on the achievement of reaching the milestone status of centenarian. Whisennand was most known in his senior years as the "Can Man," said daughter Margaret Storoy of Plains because from 1979 until 2010, he went around town collecting aluminum cans for his recycling business. Storoy said that during his search for aluminum cans around town, he'd also pick up trash. "His cans took him on vacations around the world," said Colyer.

He was born to Charles and Arabelle Whisennand in Cando, N.D. His family moved to Watonga, Okla., the next year. In 1921, his family headed to Canada, but when their vehicle broke down in Nashua, Mont., they decided to stay there, later moving to Fairfield, where he met and married Catherine Bredenbroker. They moved to Swamp Creek, just outside of Plains, in 1953 and worked a farm for eight years before moving into town.

Whisennand worked as a police deputy, a volunteer fireman, owned the Garden Gift Shop and Liquor Store, and was the Plains mayor from 1977-1979. He retired from Diehl Lumber in 1976. Whisennand became a long term care resident in October 2010 and is one of two centenarians at the facility, along with 104-year-old Ruby Mae DeTienne.

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