Talon News - Good Local News



September 8, 2017

David Edward Albright

Fern, with her antique piano

"I tell people I must have been laughing or smiling when I was born," Fern Ione Laughlin girlishly giggled as we chatted. One-hundred-two years young, Fern's warmth and smile are as natural as New Mexican sunshine.

Born June 11, 1915 in Wyoming, Fern moved with her parents and four younger brothers to Farmington in 1926. With Wolf Creek Pass impassable, they ventured to Cumbres Pass in their Model T Ford, pulling a trailer "with all our worldly goods," she recalled. That route was tough going too, they had to disconnect the trailer; her dad had to back up the mountain, then they all worked together to push the trailer up to reconnect it.

Fern relates some fun tales in her book, "Fern, Never Too Old to Write." Eaton, her maiden name, traces back to the founders of this country, Francis Eaton on the Mayflower in 1620 and Nathaniel Eaton, a Harvard President. She has vivid recollections of incidents like accidentally wounding her brother with a hatchet. "That's when mother's hair started turning gray." And coyly she recounts the time when her dad and others tied a cowbell to the bedsprings on her wedding night. "The funny part of it was that they didn't do it right, because it never rang."

Once established in Farmington, Carl Eaton, Fern's father, supported his family in the real estate business, and built their two-story adobe home. Fern met her future husband Carvel at a church youth group. He later told Fern it was love at first sight, but she writes, "It took me awhile, but in June of 1934, with a full moon, when we were parked up on the mesa about where the Mesa Shopping Center is now - we had been going together for about a year - our hugs and kisses were getting a little passionate, so we both told each other, I love you. We became engaged that night."

Carvel's work was painting and Fern's work never stopped with three sons and last born, daughter Edie, who lives with Fern. When her children were raised she was a teacher's aide for years, until her ailing husband required her full attention.

Carvel, she said, was one of the best gunsmiths around and they shared many deer and elk hunting adventures. Staying behind at camp on a hunt with Carvel and son Gene, Fern showed her marksmanship. When they got back, she said, "I already got one." They tracked it down and it was a big buck.

Before first son Hugh arrived they lived in Aztec and had no car. "So mother and daddy came and got me and took me to their house. Daddy called Carvel when my pain started, and he ran all the way to Farmington, it was February and it had snowed. He was a long distance runner, no problem." Chuckling she said, "He didn't make it." When her third son was born on her birthday, the doctor told Fern she was disgustingly healthy. "He weighed over nine pounds - wasn't that a wonderful birthday present!"

About her passions, Fern said, "Oh, I was so glad I had all those four children. I just love all my children and grandchildren. I have seven great-great-grandchildren. Do you call your religion a passion? I guess you do? When I visited my son in Hawaii there was a boy ahead of us at the restaurant. He had a sign with the letters: P-B-P-W-M-G-I-T-W-M-Y. I asked him what they meant. He said, 'Please be patient with me, God isn't through with me yet'. I guess God isn't through with me yet, either," she joked.

Blessed with remarkable health, Fern has faced only one or two medical issues. After walking the dog, she came home exhausted and Carvel's nurse knew a visit to the hospital was in order. Diagnosed with a minor heart condition in 1994, she's taken "just one little pill" since. Always aware of good nutrition, Fern said, "I'm a health nut!" She works in her yard, does Tai Chi, attends church, goes to her writing class and enjoys many concerts. For years she relished playing kazoo in The Hillbilly Band. When she expressed regrets about not going to college, one of her kids asked why she didn't do it now, "so I went up to the college and took courses in philosophy and creative writing-just for fun," she said.

Fern had the amazing experience of a month-long visit to her missionary brother, Paul, in Africa. Pictures in her book include one of Paul and a giraffe, an elephant, a crocodile and some native people, called 'nationals.' During a visit to Uganda, Fern relished eating giant perch, delighted seeing monkeys from the boat and stayed in the renovated hotel that Idi Amin and his rebels had destroyed.

With her faith-based philosophy, she writes "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbors as yourself." She stresses loyalty, compassion, honesty and education.

When asked if anything caused her fear, she replied, "No, I think people should not be afraid. If you are a Christian you aren't. It's simple as that?.

Fern loves her new comfy recliner, her engraved steel park bench at Berg Park by the Animas River - an honor bestowed by family upon turning 100 - and the piano in her living room. Her mother paid for her piano lessons on her favorite antique with homemade butter and cottage cheese.

What sustains a seemingly ageless person? Could it be a spunky attitude, a genuine love of life and easy laughter? When her granddaughter asked what's on her bucketlist, Fern's answer was a balloon ride. So at age 100, her granddaughter made that happen. "She asked me what else is on your list, I told her I want another ride," Fern chuckled.

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