ST. GEORGE — Eleanor Miltner, a St. George Catholic Church parishioner, recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She has seen many changes in the world since she was born May 13, 1919 in the tiny town of La Crescent, Minn., which then had a population of about 500.
Although she was an only child, she grew up surrounded by her mother’s family, who all lived on the same street. Her father worked at a foundry and her mother was a seamstress and telephone operator. The family also produced a large garden and sold much of their surplus.
Miltner attended local public schools, which she enjoyed and where she did well. After high school, she enrolled in a secretarial course at the Minnesota School of Business in Minneapolis. She met her future husband, Leo, when they went to work for the same employer. Leo, a cradle Catholic, asked her to join him in his faith. They were married in 1940.
Within a few years, they moved to Sheridan, Wyo. when Leo had a job opportunity there. The couple had three children: Leo Junior, Nicholas and Suzanne, who all attended Catholic schools. When her husband eventually started his own insurance business, Eleanor helped him with the bookkeeping at night.
During those years, she also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Billings, Mont. and the Sheridan VA Medical Center. In her spare time, she knitted, crocheted, quilted and taught sewing to 4H groups. Miltner eventually moved her elderly parents to Sheridan, where she cared for them until they passed away.
The couple moved to St. George in 1995.
“We just kept going through there on little vacations and decided to move there,” Miltner said.
The climate was a key factor in their move to St. George, she said. She hated the cold and her husband struggled with arthritis. The year after their move, Leo Miltner passed away of an aneurism. Eleanor Miltner said she kept “real busy” at church after her husband died.
During their life together, the Miltners were always active in their faith. In Sheridan, they founded and ran the parish thrift store for several years. After they moved to St. George, Eleanor Miltner helped out at the parish thrift store there for 11 years. She also served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
Until five years ago, Miltner lived in the condominium she and her husband had purchased when they moved to St. George. These days she makes her home in an assisted living facility. Her children, who live in three different states, all tried to move her closer to them, but she refused, so they all visit frequently and she speaks with her daughter Suzanne Olsen on the telephone almost every day.
Olsen and her siblings are proud of their mother and the life she has lived.
“She has lived every aspect of her life to the fullest,” Olsen said. “She was a model of Christian charity all of our life. … With her, marriage and family came first and foremost. ... It has been an inspirational journey watching her take what God gives her; she just leaves it in his hands.”
These days, Miltner’s activities are limited by her failing eyesight, but she is in good health generally. She attributes that to good genes; her father lived to be 92 and her mother to be 90.
The secret of long life, if there is any, is to take one day at a time, she said.
“Just keep on doing the same thing day after day,” she said.
She has no sage advice for others, she said. “If I did, I’d certainly give it.”
For her 100th birthday, the family, which now includes eight grandchildren and 16 grandchildren, had a special party at the assisted living center. More than 20 St. George parishioners threw her another party.
“She is a delightful individual,” St. George Parish pastoral and outreach coordinator Carole Drake said of Miltner. “I think she has a very kind heart and a very genuine spirit. She also has a wonderful sense of humor, which she has maintained into these advanced years – I’m amazed.”